Our Great Wall challenge was epic. But the children we met with and spoke to in schools for the blind in the days that followed touched our hearts in a way that remains. Some of the children we met are not only blind and disabled but have also been abandoned. We are determined to share their stories so they receive attention and support for their incredible work.
From November 4-6, 2017, Team See Possibilities completed an epic 3-day endurance challenge over 100km of remote sections on The Great Wall of China. Together we guided our teammate Dan Berlin, who is blind, on a multi-sport journey —-cycling, trekking, and kayaking —- over unrestored remains of this iconic piece of history weaving like a snake through China's towering mountains. The steps and rocky terrain weren't easy, but the views were breathtaking. We felt simultaneously insignificant and connected with everything in the universe. We slept in tents in abandoned (and freezing!) watchtowers, stopping only to share meals with local villagers.
Since we formed our nonprofit a few years ago, we have run across the Grand Canyon and back in one day, ran the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in 13 hours and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in the dark in 2.5 days. This Great Wall challenge took us one step closer to achieving our goal - helping Dan make history on 7 continents in 7 years. Our hope? To highlight Dan’s story as a way to inspire children with disabilities to focus on their abilities and to challenge their perceived limitations.
The kids we met at the Bethel Foster Home outside Beijing are not only blind, but they were also abandoned by their parents because of their disability. Anna, Wendy, and the selfless team provide passionate care for the kids and work hard to place them into loving families through adoption. They believe that #loveisblind.
To learn more about Bethel’s sponsorship program or others, visit www.bethelchina.org/
At the Bangkok School for the Blind, we were blown away by what is possible with resources and dedicated leadership. With the positive example of the late King to the generosity of the Thai people, to the to the passionate Director and teachers, this school provides children who are blind with appropriate educational tools, skills, and vocational training for meaningful employment. They focus on abilities and inclusion for all.
UNICEF and a national media team flew with us to Phrae, a province in northern Thailand. We spent the day at the Phrae Junti-Sintana School for the Blind, speaking with the children and highlighting Dan’s accomplishment. Their dedicated team of administrators and teachers work towards inclusion. The kids are not only educated using appropriate tools, they are also taught vocational skills so they can achieve even more and apply their skills in meaningful work.
Our hope is that Dan’s incredible accomplishment on The Great Wall inspires others to see their own possibilities. Dan sees blindness as an inconvenience rather than a disability.
What’s holding us back?
Thank you to UNICEF Thailand for organizing our media effort and for initiating relationships with the Bangkok School for the Blind and the Phrae School for the Blind in northern Thailand. Nattha Keenapan, Thomas Davin and the team at UNICEF Thailand work for every child in a selfless, determined way. We are grateful to be aligned.
*Thailand photos are thanks to UNICEF/2017/Sukhum Preechapanich.
Thank you to the outstanding Niamh Donohoe for her dedication and commitment to Team See Possibilities’s mission. Niamh donates her time and her outstanding production skills to join us on the Great Wall with several cameras in tow. Her rock solid fitness and her calm and positive demeanor helped us finish...and her video will help share our story with the world. For more visit www.niamhdonohoe.com
Thanks to Intrepid Travel and the PEAK DMC office in Beijing. Hanh Nguyen worked diligently with incredible local guides Jerry and Alan to secure our bicycles, kayaks and ensure our safety in the more remote parts of The Great Wall. They fostered relationships with local villagers who fed us and ensured we kept going.
CHECK OUT WHAT THE PRESS HAD TO SAY BELOW!