When 12 year old Victoria D’oliveria arrived at Ballyleague National School five years ago, she could not speak English and, even though she is blind, she could not read Braille. It is hard to imagine what it must have been like for the Brazilian girl and her family at the time. But since then,Victoria’s life has changed dramatically and the tale of her remarkable personal journey has led her to scoop a top European prize after her entry in a Braille Essay competition won the junior title.
Last Friday, the Leader had the privilege of speaking to Victoria, who has already overcome more challenges than many adults in a lifetime.
Living in Ballyleague with with her mother Rosanna; father Roberto and little brother Vinicius (1), Victoria outlined her geographical journey from Brazil to Ballyleague and then her own personal journey to European Award winner.
“When I arrived here in Ballyleague, I had no English, no Braille and I knew nobody,” Victoria recalled.
“I spoke Portugese and I was told then that I would be able to learn English; then I found out that I was going to learn Braille.”
It was the Braille teacher, Roseleen O’Hanlon who initially encouraged Victoria to enter the Junior Braille Essay Competition organised by EBU ONKYO Mainichi.
The competition was open to participants from all over Europe and there were thousands of entries.
Entitled ‘Using Braille – My Story’, Victoria provided a beautiful account of her life and the way in which Braille had transformed her life.
She recently recited her essay at a special Braille reading day organised by Child Vision in Drumcondra, Dublin.
“Well I just wrote about coming from Brazil and having to learn English and Braille,” smiled Victoria. “
It wasn’t that difficult for me to learn both because the teachers really helped me; I learned English first and then I began with ‘ABC’ in Braille.
“Braille has really helped me a lot – I can read books now and I love reading. In fact I do lots of things; I learn the tin whistle and I learn my subjects through Braille, but I don’t do Irish.”
She remembers travelling from Brazil in 2007 and arriving in Ballyleague. It was a jouney that was to provide the whole family with a future full of hope and inspiration.
“At the beginning [arriving in Ireland] it was a bit scary,” Victoria said. “I didn’t know anyone and I had no English – but everyone helped me and I have made many firends. When I grow up I want to help people in poor countries – I want to teach them Braille and teach them religion.”
Victoria was born neaerly 14 weeks’ premature and following complications while in an incubator at a Brazilian hospital, her sight failed her.
“My Mammy told me that I was so tiny, I could fit into daddy’s hand,”she recounts. She’s come a long way since then - and her journey is really only beginning.