Eden holds English camp for visually impaired children

Wu Ya-le, TAIPEI, Taiwan, Special to the China Post

For the first time, the Eden Social Welfare Foundation is holding an English-learning summer camp for visually impaired children, the organizers said yesterday. Twenty-three visually impaired children are enrolled in the camp — which started last week and will last until Friday — with ages ranging from 11 to 22, said Gao Yu-jie, a social worker of the foundation.

When one of the participants, 17-year-old Tim Yan, was asked as to why he wanted to join the camp and learn English, he said, “It is convenient to talk with foreigners, and to travel abroad.” The camp was actually the brainchild of Calvin Chen, a Taiwan college student in America who suggested the idea to the foundation.

He invited another seven Taiwan students in America to help him teach the children in the camp. Most schools in general are not willing to take care of the visually impaired disabled children, but their parents know that their kids need the same education as other ordinary children, said Tim’s mother, Mrs. Yan. visually impaired children learn English better in ordinary schools than they do in schools for the disabled, said Sherry Chang, one of the volunteer teachers.

Fighting back her tears, Mrs. Yan recalled that Tim was rejected by an ordinary elementary school.

Teaching visually impaired disabled children requires much more patience, said Chang, adding a teacher may have to repeat words several times. Chen thinks that the visually impaired in Taiwan do not receive as much care as those in America. The foundation made arrangements for such a camp last year, but had to call it off due to the SARS outbreak, said Chen. The volunteers and the foundation’s social workers have been planning it for a long time, and will continue hosting the camp in the future.

Except for Chen and another volunteer, all the teachers for the camp have never done social work before.

Before the camp, the volunteers had to enter a training program to learn how to work with the children, said Liao Mei-chi, a worker with the foundation.

Chang said she has realized that visually impaired children learn as quickly as ordinary kids, and they usually have a good memory. She said she is willing to come back and teach next year, and she will find more materials for them.

Chen agreed with Chang, saying, “I think I have learnt more than the students.”