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Sabriye Tenberken, founder of 1st school for the blind in Tibet

China Daily

According to the Ministry of Public Security, more than 50 million foreigners exit or enter the country on average every year, while another 5 million live here. Of these, about half-a-million call China home.

Many have enriched Chinese lives with their contributions in business, education, medical care and disaster relief.

China Right There, a recent bilingual documentary on Tianjin TV highlighted the lives of 100 expatriates who have been living here since the founding of New China in 1949. The crew traversed the length and breadth of the country recording their everyday lives.

Now, 13 of them have been picked to be honored with the "You Bring Charm to China" award, presented jointly by Tianjin TV and Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV, and supported by China Daily.

The awards were presented on Saturday at Kerry Centre Shangri-La Hotel, witnessed by representatives from the United Nations, leaders of China's major diplomatic institutions and by distinguished overseas Chinese.

Domestic and overseas artists put up a gala show and the whole ceremony was broadcast live to audiences at home and abroad.

We profile one of them here:

Sabriye Tenberken, 39, Germany, founder of the first school for the blind in Tibet

Sabriye Tenberken, founder of 1st school for the blind in Tibet

Sabriye Tenberken not only developed the Tibetan Braille script, but also traveled to the Tibet autonomous region alone and founded the first school for the blind there.

Herself blinded by disease while living in Cologne, Germany, when she was 12, she studied at the Central Asian Sciences at Bonn University. In addition to Mongolian and modern Chinese, she also learned modern and classical Tibetan, along with sociology and philosophy.

She founded the Center for the Blind in Lhasa in 1999 that stands to this day and continues to be expanded.

There were no schools for the blind in Tibet before this center opened. Tenberken is also co-founder and co-director of Braille Without Borders.

Besides raising funds and coordinating with officials and sponsor organizations, she is also responsible for developing the curriculum and training the teachers. At one point, she even took on the teaching herself.

The going was anything but smooth.

According to Tenberken, at first some local Tibetans cheated her by taking advantage of her blindness; also, many European foundations did not offer help, believing that a young woman who herself was blind could never succeed with such a project.

But the determined woman persevered and found a soulmate in Paul Kronenberg, her Danish boyfriend.

Sabriye's book My Path Leads to Tibet, that tells the history of her project and about living with blindness, has been published in 12 languages.

Last year, she was chosen as one of China's 15 most influential overseas experts over the past 30 years.