Running Bats

adriano com medalhaIn cooperation with a sports project for people with disabilities of the University in Sobral, our students have the opportunity to participate in physical education. Once a week, teenagers and young adults practice swimming and other sports. Participants of the project are mainly students of the classroom in Sobral together with our teacher Adriana. Two of the older students from Ubajara go to Sobral once a week to take part in the activities. This is a good way for them to improve their mobility skills and interact with their friends.

On May 2nd, five Bats participated in an inclusive running competition in the state capital Fortaleza. The experience of succeeding in a competition and reaching the set goal was a big boost for their self confidence. They also enhanced their independence while traveling without their parents or care takers.

Sports is an important tool for physical fitness, social interaction and self confidence development and I am thankful to the sports project of the university in Sobral for the cooperation with Bats in Action. I am looking forward to more successful competitions ahead. Now, our bats learn not only to fly, but also to run and to swim.

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New Bats Flying In Ubajara

Our students and friends leaving the house for an excursion As most of construction work has been completed for the moment, we are now focusing on mobilization of old and new students. For the ones already involved in the project, we are designing a more regular curriculum which includes blindness skills as Braille, computer tecnology and mobility training as well as formal education, especially in the areas of Portuguese, English and maths. In the morning, smaller kids will learn to read and write Braille, catch up with regular school content and learn through play and hands-on activities such as. In the afternoon, youths and young adults have time to practice skills they need for their studies and revise contents which they could not learn in regular school.

Throuhout the day, all students have many opportunities to gain independence in movement and daily activities in the house. In the evenings and on weekends there is room for discussion and sessions for experience sharing.

Walk with new studentsIn addition to the “old” bats, we are trying to involve new students. A teenager has just joined us last week and we visited three more potential students who are looking for ways to participate in the project. As they live in the region, they will join us during the day, once or several days per week, and go home in the evenings.

Thanks to the support of our friends in Europe, we have been able to remove the old roof from our house which was made of a harful material. Now, with the new roof, the house seems much bigger and more comfortable for our students.

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Inauguration of the Preparatory School

Carlito with our new bannerSince my return to Ubajara at the beginning of March, we have been working mainly on construction. Thanks to the support by friends from Europe and the hard work of our team here in Ubajara, it was possible to finish construction of two new rooms. As the roof of our house is made of a harmful material, we are now preparing to renew the roof to ensure a healthy environment for our students.

Organizing tiles On March 14th, we had a small inauguration celebration to present our school mainly to the community of Moitinga, a rural suburb of Ubajara. Hopefully we will be able to finish construction by the first week of April and finally open the doors for more students from the region who are aaready anxiously waiting for the beginning of classes.

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Happy News

After months of uncertainty, my visa application has finally been approved. My old visa expires in February and I was not sure when I would be allowed to return to Brazil. This worried me and my team a lot as we were not able to make long term plans. Last week, I received the happy news that my visa has been approved. Now, I will be able to stay in Brazil and continue my work. I will need to travel to Germany in order to get the new visa and I will take the chance to thank my friends for support with construction.

Construction WorkWith the support of friends from Europe we were able to build two rooms, a male dormitory (for three beds) and a small classroom. Now, the walls are already built up and we only need to cover the roof. The availability of more space makes it possible to organize our material and open the doors for more students. Work during the last weeks was concentrated on construction and organization of our activities in the new house. four students are already staying with us and others are waiting to join as soon as space is available.

In Ubajara we have a lot of support from the community. The word about our work is spreading and more and more Bats appear. The project also receives donation of food items and some construction materials. A big thank you to the community of Moitinga which received us so well.

On my return to Brazil in March, we will start classes with students from the region around Ubajara who will spend a part of the day with us. It is also planned to organize meetings for blind people of different ages again in order to promote the project and support social interaction of blind people and their families.

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New Year – New Plans

Since January 2nd I am back in Brazil. and I am looking forward to a year full of activitis to realize the dream of independence and education for blind people.

Construction Material Once returned to Brazil, we finally moved into the new Bats in Action headquarters in Ubajara. The small house has been renovated and offers space for the first Bats while we prepare for construction of a building with dorms and a classroom. Thanks to the support from friends in Germany, first materials could already be provided and the start of construction work is planned to start next week. At the same time fundraising efforts go on in order to secure the necessary ressources for the building project.

wiliany antoniza anja exploring the surrounding At the moment, three beneficiaries and a volunteer stay with me. One of them is a six-year-old girl who spends the week in the project and goes home during weekends. She studies in regular school during afternoons, but in the morning she has time to play and to learn blindness skills such as Braille and independent movement. During her first week in Ubajara, she has already made friends and the contact with a blind girl is a great learning opportunity for the children in the community. Two blind women stay in the project in order to gain skills and confidence for an independent life. Others are waiting to join once we have sufficient space. Students from the region will have the chance to come to school daily following the model of the classroom in Sobral.

At the same time, classes in Sobral continue. Holidays have just ended and we are organizing activities in the classroom. for about 10 students. Though I spend most of the time in Ubajara, I give regular support to the teacher in Sobral through visits and lanning sessions. Unfortunately, my visa has not been granted yet, so I need to return to Germany in February, hopefully already with a positive response to my visa aplication.

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A Bat in Europe

Once a year, I take some time to visit family and friends and to inform interested people in my home community and in several other cities about my work in Brazil.

This year, it has already been the second project presentation in my home town where about 40 people came to know more about Bats in Action. The involvement of my home community is very encouraging for me, people who have known me and my family since I was a child and others who have just heard about the project join hands and give financial and moral support.
Bats in Action is now even part of a Christmas donation campaign on district level.

Team of Lions Club Greding On 19th of November, I had a presentation with the Lions Club Greding. The president of the club is from Brazil and she is very interested in supporting Bats in Action. In the name of blind children in Brazil, I say a big thank you to her and the members of Lions Club Greding for the attention and the financial support!

As bats need to fly, I didn’t stay for too long enjoying company and tasty food at my parets’ house. Friends invited me to present Bats in Action in Vienna. On November 29th I participated at a Christmas celebration of a Church initiative for people with disabilities and on November 30th I had the opportunity to present at a Church service in Vienna. Thanks to Christ & Behinderung Vienna and FCG Halbgasse for the great support!

Vienna is a great city, but after a few days I said good bye to my friends there and continued my journey to Leipzig where I have a group of friends who organized a project presentation with one of the major libraries for the blind in Germany. Thanks Leipzig for the interest and support!

From Leipzig, it is a short way to Berlin where I went to see a wonderful family. We met for the first time in 2013 and became friends. They are the founders of the association Anderes Sehen e.V. which supports young blind children in Germany. Their blind daughter is very intelligent and already sends audio messages in English to Wiliany, one of the Bats in Action students of her age.

Once back from Berlin, I had more interesting and inspiring meetings, one with a orientation and mobility teacher in Munique and another one with a group of early intervention professionals for the visually impaired. This was especially interesting because I met my wonderful early intervention teacher who had been working with me when I was a child.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to meet old and new friends, individuals and organizations, here in Europe, present the work of Bats in Action and share ideas. Though the realities in Germany and Brazil are different, some challenges are quite the same when it comes to inclusion of blind people. Of course, financial support is essential for the project to continue and small or major contributions are welcome, but moral support and establishment of networks with likeminded people all around the world are at least as important. On behalf of blind people in Northeastern Brazil, I say a big thank you to everyone who contributed their time, money and ideas to make this project a success.

Now, I am impatiently waiting for my visa to be granted in order to return to Brazil in January 2015. Though I enjoy my time in Europe with family and friends, my place is with the other Bats in Brazil and I am looking forward to continue my work with them as soon as possible.

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Bats Find a New Home

During the last two years, Bats in Action has concentrated its work in the town of Sobral, in the state of Ceará, Northeastern Brazil. In 2014, 20 blind and partially sighted children and adults have been participating in classes conducted by our team of professional and volunteer teachers. Many students come from other localities in the region and have long ways to get to school once a week. Others have not been able to join the project yet due to problems with transportation.

williany and eloisy descover their surroundings As a consequence, we decided to start the preparatory school with a residential programme in January 2015. We have found a lot of support and a condusive environment in the rural town of Ubajara, which will be the location of the first Preparatory School for the Blind in Brazil. As inclusive education is compulsory in the country, all our students go to regular kindergarten, primary or secondary school. We support the schools as much as possible with preparation of special learning material and orientation of teachers. In the project, blind children learn to read and write Braille, to use computer technology and to gain freedom of movement and independence in daily routines. Extra-curricular activities such as arts, sports will be added depending on the availability of volunteers.

Students who live in the region of Ubajara can attend their local regular schools and come to the project in the afternoons. For those who live far away, it will be possible to spend the week in the Preparatory School and go home during weekends. This opens the school up for children from remote areas where special education is not available. It is planned that children stay in the Preparatory School for about three years in order to gain the necessary skills and self confidence to move back to their own communities.

The setting in a rural area offers a lot of opportunities for learning and fun activities. Children can enjoy constant contact with nature and a healthy diet. They can move around freely and learn how to maintain orientation in a rural area. As many children come from rural environments, they are able to learn skills they will need in the future when returning to their own communities.

In addition to the programme for school-going children, the Preparatory School offers learning opportunities for blind adults, for example during weekend courses. Special activities will also be organized for parents with small blind children or those with multiple disabilities.
The new house under construction
We have alrady got a small house in Ubajara which has been restructured. It is now ready to be my home together with my colleague Vera and the first students. Bats in Action is currently raising funds in order to build a male and a female dormitory, a guest room and a classroom.

Though some of the students from Sobral will join the school in Ubajara, activities in Sobral will continue with the support of our local teacher and volunteers. I will be visiting regularly in order to teach a group of adults and support the work of the teacher with the remaining kids.

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A Great Team

antoniza vera anjaOne of the biggest difficulties in the initial phase of the project was working alone. Though there are always friends to help out now and then, I needed a person to share ideas, develop plans and work together on a daily base. For some reason in Sobral I was not able to find a team. People who are interested already have a lot of work, others did not believe in the idea. Finally, a new room mate moved into my house at the end of 2013. Vera is from Ubajara, after a few days we were already making plans to visit her home town. As Vera was very interested in my work, we started long discussions and brainstorming sessions about crazy ideas. Her skills in handicraft are very useful for preparation of learning material and small items for income generation. Today, Vera is an important part of the project as a volunteer and board member. She understands very well the way blind people learn and often takes my place in the classroom when I have other appointments.

anja fátima carlito e ronildo femacDuring our first visit to Ubajara, we met Fátima, a community leader IN the rural district of Moitinga. Once she found out more about the work of Bats in Action, she decided to support the project. We had several meetings with blind people of the community and even a regional meeting for blind people from DIFFERENT localities. Fátima mobilized community members and gave us great support with arrangement of the local for meetings, meals and much more. In addition, Fátima and Vera know many influential people in Ubajara who help a lot with burocracy and promotion of the project. Fátima’s husband, Calito, is also involved in the organization. He is our relieable and always present driver who takes us around for visits and meetings. Now, Carlito is in charge of renovation and construction of the preparatory school. An always present supporter in Ubajara is Ronildo, the president of the federation of NGOs in the town. He is at all times available to help solving burocratic challenges.

Our students are also active in the project. They help with identification of new beneficiaries by passing the word about the opportunity to study and start a new life. Especially Antoniza is a big help in the daily work. She has been participating in the project since March and now she already represents the organization during meetings, gives motivational speeches and passes on her knowledge to her fellow students.

I am very grateful for the support we found in ‘Ubajara and the possibility to work together with friends who are passionate about the project as much as I am. Together, we can share responsabilities and change the situation of blind people in the region.

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Bats Learn to Fly

Students during maths class In Sobral, 15 students between 3 and 36 years of age participate regularly in project activities. Some of them are children or adolescents who go to regular school, others are adults who have not had the chance to study when they were young or need to learn new skills after losing their sight. The most active bats are in the project every day, others participate once or twice per week. Participants come from Sobral, rural districts and surrounding towns .
Children meet mainly in the afternoons, twice a week, up to four kids come together. In the mornings, we have a group of adults and one for low vision students. A new challenge are kids with multiple disabilities, especially blindness and autism.
Students play with a big ball
Depending on the age and learning needs, activities are quite different. Of course, all students need to learn and practice Braille and the use of the computer to ensure literacy. School going children also practice maths to learn special methods and catch up with the contents in regular school. At all times, play and social interaction are important parts of the project. Many students have a big need to share their experiences and tell their stories. Family problems and trauma due to discrimination are present everywhere and many students discover that there are others in the same situation.
A snack at my house As often as possible, we leave the classroom building for small trips in the surroundings, in the city centre or in my house. The Bats in Action headquarters is an important meeting point for students to study, chat and enjoy time together. As we don’t have an internet connection in the classroom, we use my home for computer classes. Many older students are already able to make their way from school to the house by bus, a big progress which gives a boost to their self-confidence.

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A Smart Bat

When I visited Sobral for the first time in 2012, I met Wiliany, then 4 years old. She has always been curious and active. When Wiliany first got hold of my cane she asked:
– What is this? –
– A white cane – I replied.
– What it is used for? –
When I gave her the cane, she started to run without hesitation.

Wiliany reading Braille Wiliany has been part of the project since the beginning and she has developed a lot. She has been stutying in our classroom since February and in the second semester she was enroled in a regular school nearby the project. This gives us the chance to support the teacher and make her experience in regular school as profitable as possible. After school Wiliany has lunch at our house and studies in the project in the afternoon. During the last three months, Wiliany has learned the Braille alphabet and she already reads small words. Our excursions and daily travels by bus during lunch time give her the opportunity to increase her mobility and discover her surroundings. Her questions about the job of a bus driver, a conducter and the different parts of a bus have no end. With her white cane Wiliany explores every corner and every hole on the way.
williany on her way to lunch
During a visit to Amontada, a neighbouring town, we met a blind girl of Wiliany’s age and inteligence. Unfortunately she does not go to school yet and had no opportunity to acquire the same skills and confidence. It will be our task to find ways for her to participate in the project as soon as possible and fly together with the other smart bats

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