This time a bit on a personal note. I nearly missed my work anniversary. On September 1, 1996, right after graduating from the Lodz University I began my work with and for people with visual impairments. Full-time jobs, part-time jobs, teaching, training, lecturing, marketing, selling. A mixture of activities – all about people with vision concerns. Since I don’t know how to sound funny, I will not pretend I am because it would not sound funny. So I am taking you and myself into a sentimental but I promise brief journey through my professional autobiography.
I started as a teacher at the Special School for the Blind in Laski, outside of Warsaw, Poland. It was my first real job where I was also learning the „blind” ropes. I was really fortunate to be entrusted a new language-computer lab where I had my classes. Together with the students we turned computers and other adaptive devices into a language hub where they learned not only a foreign language but also how to communicate with one another and with the world.
In the fall of 1999 I was invited to the Red Cross Nordic United World College in a remote village in western Norway to support students with visual impairments and train the staff and other students in teaching and living with the blind. For a young teacher it was a great privilege to work in such a great environment with the international staff and bright and super-talented students from over 80 countries. The campus is conducive to learning not only academics but also a relationship with other people and with nature. Apart from supporting the students with visual impairments in their academics, I accompanied them on kayaks, climbing rocks and mountains, and skiing. The last one was particularly challenging as I am not an Alberto Tomba (I am dating myself because who remembers Alberto?).
2003 is yet another important turning point in my services for people with visual impairments. The fate and some good people gave me an opportunity to work as a Teacher of the Visually Impaired and an Assistive Technology Coordinator for the Vision Programs at Milwaukee Public Schools district in, as you guessed, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. In February not knowing what I was getting myself into I left for Milwaukee. And this was the place where my love for assistive technology blossomed. I was fortunate to work with fantastic teams of people who let me share my experience and let me grow professionally by sharing their knowledge with me.
Those were fabulous 7 years after which I was ready for a very different but as it eventually turned out an extremely rewarding experience. I went to South Africa where I was given a life-changing opportunity to work in a rural school outside of the city of Polokwane. It was to be just a four month adventure that lasted for nearly a year and a half. Again, my destiny sent me to be in an international group of professionals and wonderful group of kids and youth with visual impairments. Not only did we do academics but we also danced. They taught me African moves, and I tried to teach them Polonez (a Polish national dance) and some other dances that were easy enough for me to teach :-).
Leaving students and their teachers and coming back to Poland was uneasy. This time life brought me a different opportunity and a different challenge. I started working for an Assistive Technology company. Although it was not a teaching position I still could use my skills to work with people who offer a direct support to persons with visual impairments. Providing training and workshops was by far my most favorite part of this job.
It is 2016. Now I am sailing my own boat. Still sailing it for people with visual impairments though the scope of our services goes well beyond this group of people.
As we all know our future is unknown. We meet new people. We are given new opportunities. End of the day, it is our choices that determine what we do and what we are. Nonetheless I am so very grateful to all the people that have extended their helping hands in these last 20 years. Working for people and working with people is the greatest reward one can get. I know I would not be where I am were it not for numerous individuals who believed in me and put up with me.
These 20 years have been full of ups and downs, exciting times and to put it mildly not too thrilling ones. But what matters the most is the people that I have come across. Thank you all and I do hope we will cross our paths again somewhere, sometime.
Looking forward to the next 20 years.