Monday, 19 September 2016

"There should be some mail today...

the email said. It was Sunday yesterday. We do not get mail deliveries on Sundays. 
But there was already email...and more email. My personal and work email boxes were overflowing.
And no, there wasn't a catastrophic disaster somewhere. Even those have not produced quite the deluge of mail I received yesterday.
According to my long time colleague D.... it was a "simple but brilliant" idea which came from my friend R....  
I didn't realise it but it was forty years ago yesterday that I gave D.... the first "communication board". He was going off to Thailand and he needed some help to "talk" with the locals. He had been trying to learn Thai - and finding it almost impossible. He is seriously "tone-deaf ". 
D... is Welsh and jokes about being the only tone-deaf Welshman there has ever been. It's a serious issue though, especially if you are trying to learn a tonal language like Thai. His teacher was almost tearing her hair out in frustration. He was getting more and more worried and tense. I suggested we write a communication board for him the way I had written boards for the children I had once taught. So there, in a student room at a university hall of residence in London, I sat down with him and his teacher and we worked out what he needed to be able to communicate and how to put  it together. 
I remember that first, painful effort. We needed something small enough for him to carry around. (Remember, there were no fancy phones around which carried any useful sort of translation tools!)
We did it. He went off to Thailand and his family helped a local community build a business there. (These days it is a major one belonging to that same community.)
D... introduced me to more people who needed help and they introduced me to still more...and more...and more. It ended up as my unintended working life, a job that has had the most extraordinary consequences.
And yesterday - I still don't believe this - because my friend R.... suggested that one way to mark the anniversary would be to send me an email my mailboxes almost overflowed. I could almost see the messages spilling out into the curious swirling mass of electrons which is the internet. 
They came from all over the world. The oldest person to send me a message was D... himself, now 93. The youngest was 13...ten years ago he had major brain surgery and his surgeon worked with me and his parents to find a way of helping him communicate during the surgery. In between there were people I know I will never meet but every single one of them has given up their time to go out and help others on a voluntary basis. Many of them have risked their lives and some, like my friend T..., have gone back year after year to help. 
To be a small part of all they have been done has been immensely satisfying. I stopped counting at around 200. There were at least 14 different languages there as well. I don't read all those languages of course but everyone could have read the messages of each other because they all used Blissymbols as well - and some just used Blissymbols. I hope the one I put here will come out and, in the language of my ancestors, "tapadh leat"!


Anonymous said...

dankjewel Cat! Dina

Anonymous said...

Terima kaseh Cat! Subagio

Melodye Traupel said...

Jamba, Sister Cat,

Thank you for all you have done to help people in our world. We are all so proud of you.

USA Sister Cat

Anonymous said...

Cat, You have touched many people, and I am so glad they sent a little mail to mark the day! Thank you for your service to the people all around the world.

catdownunder said...

Merci, gracias, grazie, asante - oh you all know what I mean! I really don't do the hard work - it's the people who go out and risk their lives that I admire!