Forest helps blind to feel nature

Local | Karin Li 1 Sep 2016

Several visually impaired people were yesterday given the opportunity to get closer to nature by growing and arranging plants in a "forest in the dark" initiative.

Organized by the Hong Kong Blind Union and social enterprize MicroForest, the workshop allowed the visually impaired to lay moss, stones and small tree branches into a pot.

Under the instructions of volunteers and those taking part, and using their other senses, they created their own "forest." The activity will be repeated outdoors at a stargazing camp in November.

Members of the media attending the workshop were asked by Rainbow program designer Chow Choi-hung to place themselves in the shoes of the visually impaired by "keeping quiet and feeling the silence, imagine yourself walking into a forest."

"Use your hands to feel the different tools like the scissors and the glass bottle on the table. Smell the other materials like the moss and the tree branches," he said.

Seven people, with the help of volunteers, were then given the chance to go above their limitations and create their own "forest."

Hong Kong Blind Union project coordinator Lau Shing-kwan said most of the visually impaired don't grow plants or take part in visual activities, so the project is aimed at increasing their confidence.

"The visually impaired are actually able to do a lot," he said.

Pinky Lee Hin-kwai, who lost her sight at an early age, said she had never imagined she would be able to create her own forest.

This was her first experience of flower arranging using her hands to feel the shape, the temperature and the texture. She held the glass pot tightly.

"It was not too difficult," she said. "The hardest part was to distinguish between the hard and soft moss and cut them, but I was able to do so with the detailed instructions I was given."

Marco Lee Chi-king, 34, who lost his sight 17 years ago, seemed to have a lot of confidence at the workshop.

"I felt lost before but now I believe there are many things I can do even without my sight," he said.

He said from now on he would always smell and feel the plant decorations at his home.

Organizers also hope to promote social integration through the activity. The workshop will go outdoors in the Stargazing Camp for All and the Blind in November.

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