We first met Pendael (Pendo) on our walks through the Mtanza-Msona village in Rufiji, Tanzania while visiting families for interviews. Pendo is an orphan who lived with his aunt and uncle. Born blind, he imprinted a map of his village in his mind over the course of 13 years by feeling his way along the paths. He knows every tree, corner, and building, and can identify any villager by their voice. Pendo would occasionally stop by our house–we would eat dinner together and he would listen to music on our iPod. On our trip to the Usambara Mountains in northern Tanzania, we came across the Irente School for the Blind, and thought of Pendo. In Dar-es-Salaam, we bought him clothes (he came with nothing but rags) and arranged an appointment with the national disabilities hospital. Then we brought him to Irente, where he began his first year of school in July 2008.
* UPDATE (2016): Pendael is still at Uhuru Mchanganyiko school in Dar es Salaam. The Perkins School for the Blind generously donated a Perkins Brailler to Pendael in October 2011, and so he’s very busy typing away. Pendael plans to transition to a vocational school in 2016. We’ll keep you updated on his progress.