July 16, 2005: Headlines: COS - Lesotho: Disabilities: Blindness: Service: Spokesman-Review: RPCV Hank Stelzer has spent last quarter-century trying to alleviate poverty in Lesotho by building boarding school for the blind

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Lesotho: Peace Corps Lesotho : The Peace Corps in Lesotho: July 16, 2005: Headlines: COS - Lesotho: Disabilities: Blindness: Service: Spokesman-Review: RPCV Hank Stelzer has spent last quarter-century trying to alleviate poverty in Lesotho by building boarding school for the blind

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-141-157-23-45.balt.east.verizon.net - 141.157.23.45) on Saturday, July 30, 2005 - 9:41 pm: Edit Post

RPCV Hank Stelzer has spent last quarter-century trying to alleviate poverty in Lesotho by building boarding school for the blind

RPCV Hank Stelzer has spent last quarter-century trying to alleviate poverty in Lesotho by building boarding school for the blind

Stelzer's work with the Peace Corps involved translating Lesotho Braille into English Braille and teaching at the school for the blind in Maseru, the capital city. He soon became disenchanted with the system, because "they were learning not just English, but ENAR, English for No Apparent Reason. Some of the students had been there for 15 years, and there wasn't even one blind person employed in the entire country."

RPCV Hank Stelzer has spent last quarter-century trying to alleviate poverty in Lesotho by building boarding school for the blind

Helping to make the world a better place
Hank Stelzer has spent last quarter-century trying to alleviate poverty in Lesotho by building boarding school for the blind

Caption: In this undated photo, Hank Stelzer holds a baby in Lesotho. (Courtesy of Hank Stelzer)

Kim Cheeley
Correspondent
July 16, 2005

He handed me a quotation, typed in letters half an inch high: "A hundred years from now, it won't matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, the kind of car I drove. But the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child."

He's lived in a chicken coop and a sprawling country home on a quarter section of prime farmland. He's owned businesses worth more than $1 million, and he's also laid awake at night wondering how he'd pay his electric bill. But rich or poor, his prime concern has been the welfare of the children in his care. A hundred years from now the world will be a better place because Hank Stelzer lived.

Stelzer has spent the last 25 years living and working in Lesotho, (pronounced "Lesutu") a tiny, mountainous country completely surrounded by South Africa. Legally blind since 1975, he began his foreign mission as a Peace Corps volunteer, and from there continued a one-man crusade, establishing a boarding school and training center for blind children.

Stelzer's work with the Peace Corps involved translating Lesotho Braille into English Braille and teaching at the school for the blind in Maseru, the capital city. He soon became disenchanted with the system, because "they were learning not just English, but ENAR, English for No Apparent Reason. Some of the students had been there for 15 years, and there wasn't even one blind person employed in the entire country."

Upon receiving Stelzer's resignation letter, the Peace Corps made plans to send him back to the United States. Hank said he wanted to stay in Lesotho and work. The administration insisted that protocol demanded they send him back. He suggested they give him the cash instead of buying a return plane ticket. His arguments went nowhere and he landed back in Minnesota, where he immediately sold 120 acres of farmland, and headed back to Lesotho to build his dream school for the blind.

What started as a 12-foot-by-14-foot Masonite building, housing 10 young blind women grew into a two-story cement-block boarding school that served 32 students and included classes in Braille, typing, carpentry, gardening, animal husbandry and switchboard operation.

The single feat of which Stelzer is most proud is that he collected and distributed 10,000 pairs of glasses, aided by Lions International. Stelzer recalls, "One man in his early 70s who couldn't see to read, came to our center for a pair of glasses. He had one leg and walked on crutches. Our center was on a plateau six miles from the village. A few months later, this man walked those six miles on his crutches, up that steep hill, carrying a small plastic bag. He'd come to thank me for the glasses with a gift of three sweet potatoes."

Stelzer has since turned the school over to the people of Lesotho. Thirteen students from his school have landed real jobs, the first blind people ever to work in Lesotho. They are currently raising chickens, knitting sweaters, working as telephone operators and bank receptionists. One organized a band, and another is working at the University of Lesotho.

Stelzer's life story could fill a book, and would, of course, be published in Braille, and would include stories of building, selling and losing million-dollar businesses in machine repair, wool sales and transportation; educating and building housing for countless employees; being jailed, almost deported, robbed 13 times and shot in the stomach at close range with a .38-caliber weapon; a suicide attempt and the dissolution of a 20-year marriage; witnessing a dozen coups d'etats and three civil wars. And despite everything, fighting for permanent resident status in his adopted country.

At 75, he is now involved in the management and operation of an orphanage. He'll be heading back to Lesotho in November to install a new stove in the orphanage kitchen.

"There was an old, four-burner stove used to make meals for the orphans. A couple women from the village wanted to learn how to make pancakes, and pretty soon 20 women were making 20-30 pancakes each, at four o'clock every morning on that old stove. They'd sell them in the village for about 30 cents apiece, and make more money in four days than they could make in a month selling cabbage and spinach in the market. But that old stove finally gave up the ghost. It's down to one burner. The ladies at Trinity Lutheran Church here in Coeur d'Alene have pledged enough money to buy a new stove when I get back."

Stelzer's trips to Lesotho are now limited by his ability to fill his medical prescriptions. He has an appeal in to Sen. Larry Craig which would allow his medications to be sent through the American Embassy in a diplomatic pouch so that he can lengthen his stays.

Asked what motivates him to continue his humanitarian work, Stelzer says, "I grew up in the Depression. My family was extremely poor, and I've always hated greed. I just do what I can to help alleviate poverty in the world."





When this story was posted in July 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:


Contact PCOLBulletin BoardRegisterSearch PCOLWhat's New?

Peace Corps Online The Independent News Forum serving Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
The Peace Corps Library Date: March 27 2005 No: 536 The Peace Corps Library
Peace Corps Online is proud to announce that the Peace Corps Library is now available online. With over 30,000 index entries in 500 categories, this is the largest collection of Peace Corps related stories in the world. From Acting to Zucchini, you can find hundreds of stories about what RPCVs with your same interests or from your Country of Service are doing today. If you have a web site, support the "Peace Corps Library" and link to it today.

Top Stories and Breaking News PCOL Magazine Peace Corps Library RPCV Directory Sign Up

Special Events for RPCVs Date: July 13 2005 No: 683 Special Events for RPCVs
Join the NPCA in DC for Advocacy Day on July 28
NPCA to hold Virtual Leaders Forum on July 29
RPCV's "Taking the Early Bus" at Cal State until Aug 15
"Artists and Patrons in Traditional African Cultures" in NY thru Sept 30
See RPCV Musical "Doing Good" in CA through Sept
RPCV Film Festival in DC in October

July 17, 2005: This Week's Top Stories Date: July 17 2005 No: 690 July 17, 2005: This Week's Top Stories
C. Payne Lucas writes "Can we win the war on HIV/Aids?" 11 July
Director Vasquez hints at expansion in Bangladesh 17 July
Why didn't I spend my life helping others? 17 July
John Beasley returns to the islands of Micronesia 17 July
Jennifer Field to study glacier melting 17 July
Tucker McCravy works with Serendib in Sri Lanka 17 July
David Vick writes "Waging civilized warfare" 16 July
Tom Petri says Nelson helped to promote civility 16 July
Peace Corps Director Visits Volunteers in Mongolia 15 July
John Bridgeland writes "An example for Boomers" 15 July
Robert Blackwill says India and US have a great future 15 July
Peace Corps debuts new internet recruitment tool 14 July
Eight New Country Directors Appointed 13 July
Shelton Johnson Honored for Buffalo Soldier program 13 July
Bill Lorenz leads trek for Sudanese refugees 12 July
Emilie Pryor says Peace Corps ignores Lariam problems 12 July
DDN is Award Finalist for reporting on PC Safety 11 July
Randy Lewis to hire 200 people with cognitive disabilities 10 July
Maryland needs people like Tom Lewis 10 July
Dan DeWayne puts on music festival 10 July

July 9, 2005: This Week's Top Stories Date: July 9 2005 No: 675 July 9, 2005: This Week's Top Stories
Mike Honda says Democratic Party in paradigm shift 6 July
Peace Corps Suspends Program in Gabon 8 July
Thomas Tighe says Thailand is faring better 8 July
Michael Parmly appointed top diplomat in Cuba 7 July
Paul Timmreck got his start trailing garbage trucks 7 July
Shays says London explosions should be wakeup call 7 July
Tom Murphy says: Be Vigilant, But Not Afraid 7 July
Gov. Doyle saddened and outraged by London Attacks 7 July
RPCV Films organizing Film Festival 6 July
Terez Rose writes Aid for Africa Will the G8 Help? 6 July
Carl Youngberg takes ballet to Honduras 6 July
Kafatia faces a mandatory eight years in prison 6 July
Bill Moyers says LBJ hated FOIA law 6 July
Andy and Trudy Anderson work with The Hunger Project 5 July
Thomas A. Dine deplores the attack against reporter 5 July
Mime Troupe tackles history, politics and the World Bank 4 July
Francis Mandanici says investigation could lead to impeachment 4 July
Beth Bedinotti says motherhood is "toughest job" 1 July
Director Vasquez Visits Volunteers in Eastern Caribbean 1 July

July 8, 2005: PC suspends program in Gabon Date: July 10 2005 No: 679 July 8, 2005: PC suspends program in Gabon
Peace Corps announced the suspension of the program in Gabon citing the high cost of the program. In addition, a 2003 Inspector General report documented safety and security costs of $1 million that would be necessary to keep the program operating successfully. Background: In 1998 Peace Corps Volunteer Karen Phillips was was found murdered in the weeds about 100 yards from her home in Oyem, Gabon. Her killer has never been brought to justice.

Friends of the Peace Corps 170,000  strong Date: April 2 2005 No: 543 Friends of the Peace Corps 170,000 strong
170,000 is a very special number for the RPCV community - it's the number of Volunteers who have served in the Peace Corps since 1961. It's also a number that is very special to us because March is the first month since our founding in January, 2001 that our readership has exceeded 170,000. And while we know that not everyone who comes to this site is an RPCV, they are all "Friends of the Peace Corps." Thanks everybody for making PCOL your source of news for the Returned Volunteer community.


Read the stories and leave your comments.






Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Story Source: Spokesman-Review

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Lesotho; Disabilities; Blindness; Service

PCOL21415
51


Add a Message


This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.
Username:  
Password:
E-mail: