On Pursuing Your Dreams – lecture by Wang Yanlong at the Shenyang School of the Blind

On Pursuing Your Dreams – lecture by Wang Yanlong at the Shenyang School of the Blind

The International Club Shenyang (ICS) has been supporting charities in Shenyang for many years. One of those charitable institutions is the School of the Blind, where yearly scholarships are given to deserving students who would otherwise not have the means to pursue their education.

In China, few jobs are traditionally available to people with impaired vision. Society mostly encourages blind people to train to become massage therapists or piano tuners. While those are admirable and noble professions, they might not be every single blind person’s dream jobs. 

So, on May 10th, 2018, ICS went a bit further than just donating money. One of the committee members had read an article about Wang Yanlong, based out of Ningbo in Southern China, who is blind. He had fought for his right to pursue his dream career of becoming a psychological counselor and opened up his own counseling practice called Dark Enlightenment in 2016. Reading his story, ICS thought he could inspire the future graduates of the Shenyang School of the Blind to likewise find their passion.

In conjunction with the club’s regular annual visit to the school, the committee decided to set up a video conferencing session between the graduating class of the Shenyang School of the Blind and Mr. Wang. The hope was to show the kids that following your goals is possible and that they can pursue a career outside of the well-traveled paths society expects them to tread.

The soon-to-be-graduates were lucky to find Mr. Wang an engaging and charismatic speaker with a moving story to tell. Wang Yanlong was a typical teenager until he lost his eyesight in an accident when he was 15 years old. He described to the students how he wrestled with his fate for three long years. During that time, he went through phases of dark despair and depression, as he felt his old dreams for the future were now useless. He gained some hope that “everything would go back to normal” after a month-long experiential therapy in Beijing, but his optimism was not rewarded, as the treatment ultimately failed. Wang shared he eventually needed to accept that his former life was no more, but he wondered then, perhaps his life had changed for good?

Hearing about (and eventually also meeting with) a blind girl from China who had obtained scholarships from Yale and Harvard to study law finally gave him the impetus to throw himself into his studies. Wang Yanlong began to study extremely hard and eventually won a place at the prestigious Qingdao University where he studied psychology. In addition, he became fluent in English through a rigorous self-study program.

In 2016, after graduating from university, Mr. Wang founded his consultancy practice Dark Enlightenment. A vast majority of the employees there are blind or have very low vision, such as all of the counselors, but also some in corporate functions like Human Resources. He has managed to connect with other businesses and even government departments, lobbying for the employment of low vision and blind people for positions they are able to fill. Under Wang Yanlong’s leadership, Dark Enlightenment has turned into the only organization in China able to provide training in areas such as computer skills, law, and international trade knowledge as well as psychological counseling skills and certified training specifically for visually impaired learners.

Having a blind counselor is not readily accepted in China, as it is still virtually unheard of. As a result, business was very slow in the beginning, and the young start-up struggled financially for quite some time. Luckily, a 1 million RMB cash injection by an investor saved the company, and now it is prospering.

Mr. Wang’s story was inspirational in and of itself. On top of that, he is an incredibly engaging speaker and kept reminding all participants that we can all pursue our dreams. He repeatedly asked the listeners to go beyond the fact that they have low vision or are blind, and reflect on what they can give the world, on which uniqueness they bring to the table. Moreover, to, once they know what they want to do, go for it with all their might. In the meantime, honing some skills will stand them in good stead no matter what they do, such as learning English.

When the time came to ask questions, only one of the students was brave enough to venture forward. However, Mr. Wang gave out all his contact details, in the hope that when the time comes when one of the kids has questions or needs help or contacts in the Chinese blind business community, they will get in touch with them.

ICS hopes that at least one or two from the current School of the Blind graduating class would find their passion and, through this short lecture, be put on the path to a more fulfilled and productive life.

The committee members present on that day were deeply moved and quite inspired themselves. It is always good to see someone so passionate and successful who has had to overcome so much. It pushes us to do better and overcome our own perceived roadblocks, our “blindness” that is holding us back from being the best version of ourselves we can.