#StickYourNeckOut

Sristi KC – Nepal

I was born sighted and as the youngest in my family I was very pampered. Everyone helped me to fullfill my wishes. I loved dancing, singing, and acting. At age 16 everything changed:

One day during the parents day celebration in my school, my coaches had helped me to choreographe my dance performance. I went on stage wrapped in a beautiful costume. I remember, it was a very romantic Nepali traditional folk song where I had to express happyness. I smiled while moving to the tempo of fast music. These were my favorite moments! About a minute after I had started dancing, I fell off the stage; I had not seen the edge. It was a shock and yes I cried, not because of the pain or the embarresment, but because this was a clear indication that I would become blind.

For years I had eye surgeries but nothing helped. Due to allergies in my eyes, Doctors had prescribed steroids. What I didn’t know is that I should not have used these steroids for a longer period of time because they could cause Glaucoma. Through Glaucoma I developed high eye-pressure which became the reason of complete loss of sight.

Initially it was very difficult for me to cope with this new situation. I was told I could never be independent and I wouldn’t be able to study. I would neither be able to earn a living nor I would overcome the loss of my sight and the loss of my former happy life. The drastic change from living a life as a “princess”, protected and having no fear, to becoming center point of worry by everyone surrounding me was not easy.

My parents tried everything to help me retain my sight. Thus we traveled from clinic to clinic and from specialist to specialist. Even a healer was contacted. But here I rebelled and I said “stop!” I needed to find a different way to live with the new situation. In fact it were the tears of my mom that gave me the push to look into my strengths. Could I just transform her tears in to a smile and could I one day make her being proud of having a blind daughter?

I had to discover my possibilities, my opportunities and my limits. Could I still dance? But my dance teachers discouraged me and suggested to rather continue my studies. But many colleges were not ready to accept me. However, Finally, I got admission to a public college, the Dillibazar Kanya Multiple Campus”. I invented wooden templates which helped me to write with my hand as I use to. My mom was with me and assisted me to record everything with an audio player. My teachers were also encouraging and supportive. Slowly, I started progressing in my studies.

Still it took me a lot of extra energy to go through these years without knowing Braille and assistive technologies. Despite all odds, I managed to receive the highest score of all
colleges in Nepal and the former president of Nepal Dr. Ram Varan Yadav gave me the “Chatra Vidya Padak” award. Becoming more curious about blindness and other blind persons, so far I was the only one I knew that was blind, I went to blind institutions, and realized that many blind people were leading happy lifes. They were able to walk with their white canes independently, they were studying braille and computer and were engaged in different professions.

I learned all these skills and I felt I could make a difference by changing the attitude of the sighted society towards us, the blind. when the president of the Cricket Association of the blind, Mr. Pawan Ghimire, heard from my dream to make a change, he suggested to me to
to apply to kanthari”. It excited me a lot and I applied in 2012. kanthari is an international institute for leadership and social change. It is situated in the south of India, in Kerala. There we were a wide mix of participants from 11 different countries, with many different ideas of how to contribute positively to society. Most were sighted, some were blind like me. But for the first time I experienced what it means to live in an egalitarian society, in an inclusive context. It was in kanthari where I was able to discover myself, my dreams and my own paths. And there I developed the idea to connect to my first life as a dancer and to empower other blind persons to rock.

Not long after graduating from kanthari, I started the organisation Blind Rocks. Blind Rocks encourages blind people globally to participate in their communities proactively. We empower the blind through interpersonal skills, dance, fashion and adventure trips. While travelling around the world and working with the blind in Russia, Germany, India and Malaysia, I also enrolled in a Erasmus program and I was able to study dance didactic in Norway, Hungary, France and in the UK. This gave me a lot of exposure and soon I was invited as a public speaker to talk about my life, the challenges, the anger about injustice and the motivation that was born out of all these difficulties.

And finally, I returned to my old passion, dancing. Where ever I find an opportunity, whether in performances or in casting shows, I dance. And my mother now sits in the audience and smiles.

Sristi K.C. December 2020