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Congratulations Bob Marek OBE

Many congratulations to Bob Marek on receiving the Order of the British Empire for his outstanding and innovative work for blind and partially sighted children and students in Poland.

Below is a transcript of the presentation in Lublin on the 17th October 2002, given by Tim Simmons, Charge d'Affaires of the British Embassy in Warsaw:

"Boguslaw 'Bob' Marek has worked for the Catholic University of Lublin since the 1970s, teaching English there for many years. After a visit to London, he became fascinated by the challenges facing the blind. After studying the British experience, he established the first English for the Blind programme at the University, producing: English-language teaching materials for blind and partially-sighted students; access technology for totally blind students; and training for sighted students as teachers of English to learners with visual impairment.

Picture of Bob showing his award to Natalia, one of his students.

Over the last 10 years, Bob Marek has worked closely with the Royal National Institute for the Blind and other British institutions in the same field. He is a pioneer in his field in Poland, and it is thanks to his vision and determination that assistance to the blind is beginning to be taken seriously here. In addition to his work at the University, Bob Marek has also worked with HM Prison Service to replicate in Poland projects implemented in British prisons, under which prisoners produce Braille transcriptions of texts.

It is always rewarding to be a part - however small - of a partnership such as that between Bob Marek and his British models. But more than that, it has been an honour and a pleasure for me and many successive teams at the British Embassy to work with Bob in his pioneering work. It is my privilege therefore to tell you all that Professor Marek has been appointed an Officer in the Order of the British Empire by Her Majesty The Queen, and to confer the award."

In accepting the award, Bob gave the following address:

"I am trying to think of words which would best describe how I feel, and all I can think of is … "I am overwhelmed." I know what exceptional honour it is to receive The Order of the British Empire. But when I think that someone, somewhere in Lublin, two thousand kilometers from Buckingham Palace, has just received this distinguished Award from … the British Monarch, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, I also know that some time will have to pass before I realise the full significance of this moment and of the fact that I happen to be the person honoured so greatly.

Picture of Bob Marek making his address with Tim Simmons.

I remember, some years ago one of the blind children I used to work with, said to me one day "I think I know what it means 'to see'. To see, must be like being able to look into the future because you know now that there will be a tree, and I will know later, when I walk up to the tree and touch it."

Today, I cannot help thinking that if it is true that to see, to really see, means to be able to see the future, then (and I hope I am allowed to say this), then Her Majesty can see very well indeed. Her Majesty can see, and through this Award, I believe, is sending an important message: that there IS a future for young, talented blind people; a message that blind children can learn foreign languages; a message that even totally blind students can study English, English literature, British history and culture at a university level; that they can hope for an independent future, working as translators or interpreters; that they can achieve all this if… if they are given the chance. And for sending this message, across the English Channel and half the continent, I am extremely grateful."

We would like to wish Professor Bob Marek, OBE every success with his continuing pioneering and hugely significant work.

Bob has also presented several workshops and papers at conferences hosted by the NCTD:

"Exercises in Tactile Graphics for Young Learners"

"Making Sense of Spatial Relations: Tactile Graphics for First Time Users"

"Tactile graphics for young learners: simple tasks for teaching difficult visual concepts"

"Managing space: developing a course in tactile graphics for young learners"

For more information about Bob Marek visit http://www.hungryfingers.com/

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