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Helping the Blind in Africa

Helping the Blind in Africa

In some developing lands, blind people do not always have the same opportunities that the blind have elsewhere. They are sometimes excluded by society and do not receive the needed help with challenges they face in areas of life that sighted people may take for granted. For example, going to the market to buy food, catching a bus, and dealing with cash can be particularly difficult. Reading too can be a problem. Not all read Braille. And even when they do, they may have trouble finding publications in their language.

For more than 100 years, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been producing Bible-based publications for the blind. To make Braille publications available in Chichewa, a language spoken in Malawi, the Witnesses recently shipped Braille printing and binding equipment from the Netherlands to Malawi.

Leo, who has experience in producing Braille publications, traveled to Malawi from the Brazil branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He assisted a team of five people as they learned to use both the equipment and a Braille transcription computer program developed by the Witnesses. The program transcribes text into Chichewa Braille. In order for the program to do this, the users needed to set up a Chichewa-language conversion table containing both the regular text characters and Braille characters. The program can convert text into Braille and format the publication in a way that makes it easy for the blind to read. Consider what some who live in Malawi have said about their Braille publications.

Munyaradzi is a young blind woman who works part-time hosting her own radio program. She also spends 70 hours each month teaching others about the Bible. She commented: “In the past, I received Braille publications in English, but having them in my mother tongue has really touched my heart. I appreciate all the effort and expense my fellow Witnesses have devoted to helping us have Braille publications in our language. This makes me feel that we have not been forgotten and are viewed as important.”

Francis is a Witness who lives in northern Malawi. Because he is blind, he once relied upon others to read to him. When he received his first Braille publications in Chichewa, he exclaimed: “Am I dreaming? This is wonderful!”

Loyce, who is also blind, serves as a full-time minister. She has helped 52 people to change their lives for the better. How? She teaches people using Braille publications while her students use the printed editions, all of which are produced by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Loyce conducting a Bible study

Leo, the instructor from Brazil mentioned earlier, said: “It gives me a feeling of immense satisfaction to hand people Bible-based publications in Braille and see their reaction when they realize that these are in their language. Many of them have expressed how thankful they are to Jehovah and how happy it makes them to be able to prepare on their own for Christian meetings and the preaching work. They no longer have to depend on someone to read to them. Now their personal study becomes truly personal. They can better help their families grow spiritually. These publications help them to draw closer to Jehovah.”