Type of Spiritual Experience
Sabriye Tenberken (born 1970) is a German socialworker and co-founder of the organisation Braille Without Borders.
Sabriye was born in Cologne, West Germany. She lost her sight slowly as a child due to retinal disease, and her parents took her to many places so she would store up many visual memories, before becoming totally blind by the age of 13. She studied Central Asian Studies at Bonn University. In addition to Mongolian and modern Chinese, she studied modern and classical Tibetan in combination with Sociology and Philosophy.
As no blind student had ever before ventured to enroll in these kinds of studies, Sabriye could not fall back on the experience of previous students, so she developed her own methods of studying her course of study. By 1992 Sabriye had developed Tibetan Braille, which later became the official reading and writing system for the blind in Tibet. Tibetan Braille is based on international braille, modified to accommodate the Tibetan script. For example, Tibetan ka, kha, ga, nga are written with the standard Braille letters for k, c, g and lowered g.
In 1997, Sabriye travelled to Tibet alone in order to assess the situation of the blind there. Returning in 1998, she founded the Centre for the Blind in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, to educate blind people. Before that, blind children had not been able to attend school in Tibet. The school started with five children, with Sabriye initially teaching the children herself, as well as serving as coordinator and advisor. She then began training native Tibetans as teachers, selecting and supervising all staff-members of the Centre.
The project's progress was not without difficulties. Nevertheless, Sabriye persisted and was able eventually able to turn over the running of the Centre to one of her former students who trained as a teacher. She found one person who believed in her and began working with her: Paul Kronenberg who had been working for the Red Cross in Shigatse.
In 1998 Paul joined Sabriye in establishing the Project for the Blind, Tibet. In September, 2002, the name was changed to Braille Without Borders, BWB. In addition to the school in Lhasa BWB runs a vocational training centre for blind adults with a farm and cheese factory near Shigatse.
In 2009, Sabriye Tenberken and her partner Paul Kronenberg also began kanthari international (name intentionally spelled with all letters in lower case) in a village near Thiruvananthapuram, India, They also established an International School for Development and Project Planning near Trivandrum, Kerala, India. The school focuses on discovering and developing the hidden talents of persons socially neglected, especially because of disabilities, empowering them to be innovators and leaders.
A description of the experience
Tenberken, Sabriye. 2003/2000. My path leads to Tibet. New York: Arcade Publishing
"Tenberken had impaired vision almost from birth, but was able to make out faces and landscapes until she was 12. As a child in Germany, she had a particular predilection for colours, and loved painting, and when she was no longer able to decipher shapes and forms she could still use colours to identify objects. Tenberken has, indeed an intense synaesthesia.
"'As far back as I can remember,' she writes, 'numbers and words have instantly triggered colours in me ... number four, for example [is] gold. Five is light green. Nine is vermillion... Days of week, as well as months, have their colours, too.' Her synaesthesia has persisted and been intensified, it seems, by her blindness"