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The Star - ‘Why not?’ project taken to schools

Check out the Star's feature page showcasing all of Julie's work including her 'Why Not' philosophy, her trip to the middle east in May 2011 and Operation Truffle.

The Star - 4 November 2010
By Brenda Harwood

A POWERFUL response from school pupils to her inspirational message has prompted Dunedin’s Julie Woods, also known as ‘‘That Blind Woman’’, to launch ‘‘Operation Truffle’’.

Keen to spread her message of taking a ‘‘Why Not?’’ attitude to life, Julie plans to speak to more than 56,000 children in New Zealand’s 119 intermediate schools through her Operation Truffle programme. At each school, she will teach children the best way to meet and greet a blind person and will give a ‘‘cooking-without-looking’’ demonstration, while sharing the message that we should focus on ‘‘what we can do, rather than what we can’t.’’

‘‘Kids love food — so that’s a positive for them from the start,’’ Julie said. ‘‘And doing the cooking demonstration — showing the children what is possible —   gives a powerful message.’’

Using a suitcase full of equipment and ingredients in Braille-labelled containers, Julie makes her chocolateliquorice truffles as she talks. Cutting up the liquorice, using scissors, in front of the young audience always gets the biggest reaction. ‘‘And, best of all, the children get a chance to try the truffles after the demonstration, and lots of them come to talk to me as well. ‘‘I really encourage that one-on-one interaction, and they can ask me as many questions as they like,’’ she said.

Julie actively encourages the youngsters to text or email her questions before or after her visit, to show how blind people are able to use technology. Julie was inspired to take her Operation Truffle programme nationwide after receiving ‘‘amazing feedback’’ from children after speaking at two intermediate schools. ‘‘It is the kids who have inspired me to create this project,’’ Julie said. ‘‘The comments they sent in were amazing and made me realise I had to do more of this.’’
  
After sending letters to all 119 intermediate schools in New Zealand, Julie is set to embark on the massive project — starting with visits to intermediates in Christchurch and Oamaru this week. And the stream of positive responses from other schools continues. ‘‘It may take awhile, but I’m aiming to get to every intermediate school in New Zealand,’’ Julie said.

The cost of reaching every intermediate school in New Zealand averages out at about $500 per school, and Julie is looking for sponsorship. The ingredients for the truffles have been sponsored by Pams and RJs Licorice.