I was volunteering with the Father Ray Foundation in Thailand from October 2014 until May 2015. This organization operated a variety of projects serving some of the poor and marginalized in Thailand. One of these projects that I worked at daily was the School for the Blind. This is a story of one of my favourite days during this volunteer commitment.
This took place at none other than the blind school this afternoon. Today was a really good day on the whole, but this afternoon in particular was exceptional and damn near otherworldly.
I went shopping on the weekend to purchase percussion instruments for use at the blind school. I have had some of my most beautiful experiences here in Thailand inside the music room at the blind school, helping these individuals to explore this world in a way that is complementary to their deficiencies and the reality of their limitations in how they can connect with the world around them. Seeing their entire beings just light up to this world of endless musical possibilities delights me to no end. Of course there are so many of these young people with natural talents and abilities in this area, which I witness every time I am working with them. There is a piano inside the classroom of the youngest students, whom we spend the most time with when we spend our afternoons there. We have had some awesome jam sessions there as well.
I brought my ‘bag of delights’ with me. The children started sifting through the familiar toys from our toy bag that we bring with us daily, sharing and fighting over some of the favourites. I was thinking to myself how best it would be to introduce these blind students to ‘my bag of wonders’. Ideally that would have taken place inside of the classroom. This was not a possibility on this day as it was locked. I started distributing them to ‘my musician friends’, which is, well, most of them. I would take their hands and show them how each one worked before leaving them to their own natural creative devices. Talk about opening Pandora’s box! I’ve never seen anything like it. Here enters “the most beautiful day on Earth”.
The children of course were fighting with one another to try and get their hands on the sources of these truly extraordinary sounds: thunder tube (HUGE hit), wood blocks, wooden clackers, wood agogos, maracas, harmonicas, recorders, finger cymbals or “ching-chings” (one of the boys called them by this name, true to the sound brass jingle taps on string), kazoo, etc. I would recognize this obvious desire, find an instrument undetected and not in use by these blind eyes, and redirect attention accordingly.
How do I put into words what happened at the blind school this afternoon? A miracle? The most beautiful day on Earth? One of the most extraordinary experiences that I have ever had the extreme fortune of being a part of? The blind school was alive, full of life, curiosity and wonderment, full of sound, delight, everywhere you looked (for those of us who have the ability.) There were sightless children exploring the world in a way that has never happened before (as far as I know, and judging from their reactions, this was undoubtedly the case.) I was nearly in tears at many different points, so moved was I by all that I saw and heard. It was overwhelmingly beautiful, the joy that I witnessed on this day.
The older students were upstairs in the music room for their weekly music lesson this day. I know for a fact that they were wondering what all of these strange sounds were coming from downstairs, as so many of them ran straight to the source of said sounds the second that the class was over, and started trying to wrestle the instruments from the smaller children so that they could learn and understand what would create these kinds of sounds.
One of my little music friends, Pie, had stashed about 3-4 instruments inside of her pocket, hoarding them from the others. I discovered this and scolded her in English, which she just laughed about in response, so mischievously and of course with her childlike innocence.
One of the greatest treasures this day was the image of Kitar with the wooden “clack clacking” percussion instrument (do not know the technical term). This child ALWAYS has the biggest smile on his face. There he was with this instrument, and wandering around in tight circles, with his face towards the sky, all of the wonderment and awe plain to see on every single one of his facial muscles. It reminded me of the scene from Edward Scissorhands where Winona Ryder is dancing in the delicate snowfall outside.
There was no controlled environment today; the students wandered freely all over the premises at the blind school, making music and exploring sound the entire afternoon. This was the first day that I have been there that I never once considered what time it was; I was completely lost and absorbed in ‘the magic’ taking place all around me. I was actually saddened when the snack bell rang for the students and this was to come to its end. We the volunteers began to gather the instruments. Nearly half of them were missing/absent. Where they ended up I have no idea. Perhaps they will reappear in the future, perhaps not (most of them resurfaced the following afternoon.)
Such a beautiful and enchanting afternoon, one that I will remember and cherish as “the most beautiful day on Earth!
Written: 01.26.14, Edited 06.02.15
by Ms. Michelle Fedorowich