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K9 Buddy recipient Caitlin Mei Kasalo is one of only three children from the United States chosen to attend the 1st International Congress for Blind and Partially Sighted Children, organized by the Spanish National Organisation of the Blind (ONCE) in partnership with the World Blind Union, in Pontevedra, Spain, in June.

She will have the opportunity to represent millions of visually impaired children and young people. Her voice and opinion will play a major part in preparing the final declaration from the congress, which will be adopted on the final day in front of many important dignitaries and representatives from major organizations such as Unicef.

Caitlin was chosen based on her essay submission, “I Have Vision:”

I Have Vision"

"I may not have sight, but I do have vision!" I intend to use this vision to bring true justice for mankind. My vision is to make the world a safer, more peaceful place for all people. I had envisioned being a neural surgeon, but I understood with maturity that taking that career path was not practical. I wanted to save lives, and I still will do just that. I will bring criminals of all kinds to justice, which will in turn save many lives.

I was born in a poor city in China. My mother had no choice but to give me away. She had no idea that I was born with cataracts. I could have had perfect sight, but China did not have the money or necessary equipment to give me the surgery. In China, the girls are worthless since they lack the strength of men to run the family farm: it is also believed that women are not as intelligent as men. Women are prohibited from having more than one baby due to the massive population. She made a very wise choice. She left me on the doorsteps of an orphanage. I do not remember my mother since I only had five or so hours with her, but leaving me on the doorsteps of an orphanage was the best thing that ever happened to me. I survived five and a half difficult years there. I had no soap, proper toilets, or clean water, and hardly any food. I knew no different since those were the conditions I had come to know.

I had known a year beforehand that I was going to receive parents. The day came at last. They brought me into the United States, which would be my home from then on. I smiled for three months straight without a single frown. I would even smile in my sleep. I felt like the happiest child that ever walked the Earth. My parents loved me like no one else had. It was the first time I had ever experienced love. I was in darkness without knowing, but soon found myself in heart-filled light. My parents brought me to numerous doctors, but they all had said that it was hopeless for me to ever see anything since the brain teaches the eyes to see from birth, and I never seen for almost six years. Finally one doctor performed the surgery with minimal success. Even he was doubtful for the hope of any sight. I saw colors very well and large shapes but no details. My right eye was the least damaged. Eight glorious years passed by. Then my retina detached. I was neither sad nor upset. I accepted this very easily because I knew in my heart that my sight would not last forever. My parents took it with much sadness because they felt giving me sight was the best gift they could have given me, and now it was gone.

My parents encourage and motivate me. I would not be where I am or the individual I am without their support and guidance. Sight was not the best gift they had given me. My parents were the greatest gift given to me. They are more than any jackpot.

Then God blessed me with a brother from Thailand in 2003. I chose a blind brother even though my father wanted someone deaf. I felt I could help someone blind like myself. We instantly noticed that he was deaf as well as blind. I was devastated and upset. I did not understand why or how this could happen. Miraculously, doctors found that he had twenty to thirty percent of hearing in his right ear. I worked tirelessly for three long years to help him talk. This miracle happened when we came back from a cruise in 2006 in early April. I was overjoyed!

My life is magnificent! I use to swim competitively and made it into State back in Indiana. I quit swimming and decided to take singing lessons because of my passion for singing. Singing, swimming for fun, and reading are my all-time hobbies. I sing songs from Broadway musicals mostly and love it. I am proud to say that I have three very incredibly loving friends that have a heart of gold. It was hard to leave them when I moved to Las Vegas last year in the middle of July. They do not care that I am blind. They love me just the way I am, and I love the way they are. It is easy for them to forget that I am blind. I really do not have any more friends besides my three golden friends, which is satisfactory for me. I am a 4.0 student and will not accept anything less. It is an honor for me to have been elected president of the National Junior Honor Society this year. I put my best self out to the world. My parents are my biggest inspiration for every great thing I accomplish.

I do have some challenges that I face everyday. I take twice as long to do something such as my homework. I have a hard time learning things that are visual such as geometry. Although my life is easy, people are afraid to be around me simply because they do not know how to respond to a blind person, even though I act completely normal. Everyone has difficulties. I feel mine are minor compared to what I have seen including broken families, deadly illnesses, and weak relationships.

My blindness has never stopped me from doing anything. I have set high goals that I will achieve. I want to go to Harvard to study law. I hope to work at a major law firm in Boston as a prosecuting attorney. I intend to become a judge after a while. My ultimate goal and dream is to be appointed U.S. Supreme Court Justice. I will never give up no matter what life decides to throw at me.

Another gift that was given to me was an excellent education. In China, children start school at the age of three. I was never sent to school because disabled individuals are claimed to be incapable of doing well in academics or anything for that matter. I look forward to go to school every day. I have a great thirst for knowledge. It is said that, "The only thing you truly own is what you know." I have a fascination with history. I want to go to so many places to learn more in depth about the history. I feel having an education is vital because today's students will be tomorrow's leaders. Learning has always given me a rush of excitement. The fact that only ten percent of the blind community know how to read Braille saddens me and frightens me. It also worries me how little parents care about their child's education and future. I will continue to follow, "The road less traveled." Education is a necessity along with love, and a family to call as your own who support and encourage you.

Like I said, "I may not have sight, but I do have vision." I will make a difference in the lives of others for the better. I will use every experience and turn it into something positive. My parents will always be the biggest heroes and inspiration of my life. Blindness will never stop me from doing anything. I will never forget to be grateful for all that I have especially for the love that surrounds me every day. At my brother's side, I will continuously be. I will shoot for the stars and share all that I have with others less fortunate than me. My lifetime goal will be true justice for the sake of humankind. When I am a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, education will be a very important issue to address. My family will always come first. I would even die for them if I had to.

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