12-year-old Victoria D'Oliveira, who attends Ballyleague National School in Co Roscommon, won the Excellent Works prize in the junior category of the European Blind Union's Braille essay writing competition for her entry "Using Braille - My Story". Victoria's story is available to read below. Well done to Victoria for her excellent essay.
Using Braille - My Story
By Victoria D'Oliveira, age 12
Ding dong! Ring ring! I can still hear the sharp sound of the school bell ringing in my ears as I entered my new school.
I held my Mother's hand as we strolled down the corridor. The sound of footsteps and the noise of children talking made me a little bit nervous.
Here my story began. I, Victoria D'Oliveira a seven year old blind girl all the way from Brazil beginning a new life in Ballyleague, Co Roscommon (Ireland). It made me feel nervous but also excited. The staff and children were so friendly I settled in very well.
My first challenge was to learn English as Portuguese is my native language. With the help of my dedicated teachers, visiting teacher for the blind and wonderful special needs assistant I quickly learned the subject without difficulty. I was ready to begin reading, writing and learning through Braille. I still to this day marvel at the genius of Louis Braille who invented this system. Braille has allowed me to enjoy a full education in so many different ways. It is hard to believe that a simple cell with 6 dots representing letters from the alphabet allow me to read and write Braille to a very high standard. It is a fast and effective way of writing because of the contractions and short forms for certain words.
My typical day at school is very similar to my companions in fifth class thanks to Braille. My teacher Miss Carroll begins the day with maths. I now have the same text book as my classmates in Braille format. I have skilfully learned a huge store of mathematical symbols in Braille allowing me to solve problems. For spelling lessons I learn how to spell the word but also the contraction for the spelling in Braille which appears in texts. As you can see I am blessed with good memory skills which allow me to keep the Braille combinations for letters and numbers in my head!
I am a keen reader and I look forward to each English lesson. I am proud to be following the same standard and books as my friends. We have recently started a class novel which I follow in Braille. Braille also allows me to read books for pleasure in my spare time. There is nothing more enjoyable than Miss Carroll's music lessons. My SNA Mrs Wallace helps me to Braille the musical notes so I can learn the tin whistle and songs with ease. I am inspired by Turlough O'Carolan a famous blind harper who had a successful music career. Thanks to my brailler I now have a huge store of tunes and songs in my music folder. I am determined to continue playing music now. I also study History, Geography, Science and Religion through Braille. My school life is busy but interesting.
Undoubtedly, I have many precious memories of my Primary School to date. I also have some personal memories. One such occasion was when I met Roddy Doyle at a Braille reading day in Dublin. I was thrilled when he praised me for reading with expression. Braille allows me to use my gifts and talents. I wrote a poem about angels and won a poetry competition. I could not have achieved this without Braille.
I have written about many other great events such as meeting the president and going to a Christmas singing concert in Dublin. My friends are curious about how Braille works and want to learn it. My close friend Sarah often comes to my house. I have taught her Braille. She is a true and loyal friend to me. We talk, laugh and do our homework together.
Braille is used very well in school. I would however like to see it used better in every day life. For example if there were Braille magazines, newspapers and menus in Braille format, it would make life easier.
I am now twelve years old living with my Mother, Father and adorable one year old brother Vinicius. I have many dreams for the future. I would like to continue to develop my Braille skills in second and third level. I would love to help people to learn about Braille and to learn languages in the developing world. I would like to share with them my love for music and religion. No one knows what my future holds but I won't let anything hold me back.