English Subtitles of above Video
Hello, I am Diana Chao. I am the founder and Executive Director of Letters to Strangers or L2S, the largest global youth-for-youth mental health non-profit, impacting over 35,000 people in our network of over 20 countries, worldwide.
It’s my joy and pleasure as well as honor to be able to talk to you a little bit about the Let’s Record initiative today, and to celebrate all the wonderful work that you all are doing to make change really from the ground-up, to the people who need it the most but often don’t get the attention and the help they deserve.
This is something that I care a lot about from a personal perspective. The reason I began the Letters to Strangers which seeks to destigmatize mental illness and increase access to affordable and quality treatment for youths, is that I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 13 years old. And part of the issue that I had was as a first-generation immigrant to the United States, a lot of the cultural stigmas my family background had in regards to mental illness was not compatible with western standards of psychiatry and psychology. And I know, that is something a lot of Indians as well as others around the world experience as well. Because of this, I ended up not being able to seek the help I needed and I developed what are called pyscho-somatic symptoms AKA physical manifestations of psychological distress. And what that basically meant, was that I ended up getting diagnosed with anterior uveitis, an inflammation of the eyes that would pop my eyes blind for days or weeks at a time. And every time I had an episode, it felt like there were elephants stomping nails into my forehead. It was so painful and the doctor would always say, “You know, I’m going to put you on these eye drops and medications. I don’t know if this will work and you might be blind permanently after this but hopefully, you’ll be able to heal from this episode.” And that became my life.
I went in and out of hospitals, sought so many specialists, and nobody could figure out the cause for why I was having these endless episodes, time after time. It wasn’t until my mental health started getting better in my college years, that my eye disease also began to get better. And as I learnt more about the psychological connections between our physical and mental health and the psycho-somatic symptoms that are predominantly relevant for cultures where the mind-body connection is more emphasized, mental illness is more stigmatized, that’s when I realized how important it is that we understand and explore as well as educate each other on these different sections of health. And during the time when I was blind, I ended up having to “bribe” my brother with what little money I had in my wallet to ask him to read textbooks aloud to me. A lot of the chemistry textbooks, for example, were not really understandable if I tried to play them with like an AI or with other forms of audio-play functions that were available for free, online. And that’s why particularly I’m so excited about the Let’s Record initiative.
As somebody who had to rely on the audio input of others to help me get through school and understand and learn, and that knowledge being able to take me to represent California as the female student in the Obama Administration White House, 2016 presidential scholarship awards, this is something that is so huge and important.
You know, books are considered a person’s best companion. It’s said that when you open a book, you are opening a whole new world and that’s so true. Books provide with endless pool of knowledge and they are how I learnt English when I first moved to this country. They allow to improve their understanding of the world and be exposed to new things. And that’s why audio books have been proven to be an extremely important and valuable asset to education for visually-challenged as well as other types of differently-abled students. Surveys carried out world-wide show that less than 1% of the published information is available in alternate or accessible formats for use by people with plenty disabilities. So, Let’s Record is awesome in trying to solve this. It’s one of the first initiatives that was started just 8 hours after the nation-wide lockdown was announced in India due to Covid-19.
And it is a non-profit initiative that’s being run for differently-abled students on vargashikshak.com. Through it, they are making books available to blind students in the audio format and anyone can participate and use their resources free of cost.
You know, that’s why this initiative is so impactful. It aims at uprooting the problem by recording as many books as possible from the ground-up. And it is a social cause that can be done by just sitting at home which is perfect for this pandemic period. And so decades hence, there might arrive technologies through which every blind person will be able to read books in a format other than Braille or audiobooks and we might have a cure for blindness, which should be amazing.
But until then Let’s Record is aiming to make audiobooks accessible to blind students and I love that so much. So, including the volunteers of Saathi Enabling Center, Fergusson College, there are over 400 individuals from different parts of India working selflessly for this initiative right now, including many professionals as well as even volunteers from the US or Sri Lanka, Georgia, etc.
So, let’s wish all the best for the future of Let’s Record initiative. I am so pleased to be able to voice my support for this wonderful non-profit and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here and out. It’s going to make a huge difference, not just for the educational aspects of so many people but also improving their mental health by encouraging and reminding all of us to really embrace the full, amazing potential we have within, and not let something as small as a type print stop us from getting there.
So, I would like to close this out with a quote that I live by, here at Letters to Strangers. It’s our model, it’s called, “Writing is humanity distilled into ink” and I want to say this because so much of what is so powerful about humanity and empathy comes through the form of writing and so when we have these audiobooks available, who might not otherwise be able to read that writing, this change is probable.
You are making a connection possible. You are making it so powerful about the humanity parts of writing accessible to people who might otherwise be blocked from it and that is what living and making a difference is all about.
Subtitles by @Samrudhi_Patil
📺 Watch our Vlog_2 Video on L2S ::
Date :: 05/01/2021
The happy part is that people have started knowing the importance of Let’s Record and sad part is that few authorities of Indian Government don’t want to listen to me.
– Vishal P. S. Palve (Present Coordinator Let’s Record)
It’s a personal opinion & not of the Team
Thank You for reading 🙂 I wish good health for you! Take care, stay safe and do great!
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