S1: Episode 18 - Paloma Rambana

Portrait of Paloma

Episode Information

[Intro Music]

Narrator:          Welcome to my Heart is Not Blind. Narrative histories about blindness and perception. A traveling exhibition and book published by Trinity University Press, supported by Kronkosky Charitable Foundation, edited and hosted by Michael Nye. Stories are often found, resting along the edges of surprise and revelation. Every person, every place is a map to somewhere else.  Episode 18, Paloma Ramana.

Paloma:            What passion truly comes from the people I’m passionate about? My grandmother’s an influential person. She just talked with a way that makes you feel safe. And she has statistics and logic and brilliance, true brilliance. And she taught me, you can’t just sit back and be the bystander. You have to get out there and you can make a difference. My visual impairment is called Peter’s Anomaly. So it’s cloudiness in the corns. I had Peter’s Anomaly since day one. It’s affected me in learning and how to write my letters. And I have two surgically made pupils. So that takes away most of the cloud in my eyes. So I have four pupils and I have a lot of tools that I use. I have a big magnifier that’s on my desk to see papers and tests and quizzes. Well, I’ve never really felt like I’ve fit in.

I’ve felt like there are certain standards that people have. I had a lot of classmates and they’ll treat me differently because they see that I have glasses and they think that I need to have certain things to be able to succeed, which is true. But they’ll kind of mock me in a way of how I view things and how I have to get on the floor to see the smart board and write notes. But what they don’t understand is we’re equal. When people hear visual impairment, they’ll most of the time think of negative things about visual impairment. They’ll think that that person is weak. I like that I’m different and I like that I’m valued. So I don’t think that it affects me in any negative ways. Seeing is hardly 10% of what makes you human. But you can also feel emotions and you can touch things and touches something really important.

So when I was nine, I heard there was a gap of no funding for 927 students who are in the sixth to 13 age group in Florida who aren’t receiving visual tools to help them succeed. So once I heard about this, I told my mom I wanna do something. And I thought about it and was like, let’s do it. And we went out and lobbied the Florida legislator. And I started one day and we met 13 legislators and that one day. And then I did meet with the governor and it was important to see that they took the time to listen to me. And then once they knew my story, they passed a bill. And I was so fortunate to get the $1,250,000 for the six to 13 year olds who are blind and visually impaired. Yes, it did surprise me. The people that found out about my story, my dream, my passion. That’s why it’s called Paloma’s Dream, because it’s my dream to help these kids. And People Magazine found out and how they found out. I was just totally in shock for a week. I was like, I’m gonna be interviewed by People Magazine. People Magazine. I just had to take it and understand how I was being taken more seriously with more respect. And I’m gonna be interviewed by People Magazine.

My family is very supportive, kind, and caring. And they’re unplugged from negativity. It’s not not tolerated. We think in a very positive mindset. And I think about how things work. When I’m bored, I’ll look up the ceiling, I’ll do the area and the perimeter of the ceiling. And now I’m probably not bored anymore. <laugh> is just how I think. I’m really interested in poetry. It’s putting all your passions into one spot. And poetry is literally music to me. And you use rhythm and rhyme and you take patterns and you make them and you stitch them into this one big quilt of music. And then you just give the quilt away and you let it be shared with other people. And that’s so important to see people’s reaction in a positive way.

[Outro Music]

Host:                I visited with Palo Paloma in her family in Tallahassee, Florida. She was 11 years old at the time. When I was with her the room filled up with enthusiasm. Paloma listens to biographies, the latest from Langston Hughes and Alexander Hamilton. She recited from memory, Langston Hughes’s poem, “Dream Deferred”. And she said, “never, never, never postpone your dreams.” She cares about education and the rights of others. She said her grandmother is her mentor and her voice is soft and wise. She hopes to drive someday using a self-driving car and said, “I have my fingers crossed.” She thinks of empathy as a positive word. Empathy is when you think less about yourself and more about others. She says, it helps you develop courage. She said, “my favorite quote is from Robbie Novak. Don’t be mean, be meaningful.”

Join us next week. Two new episodes will be released. Please subscribe, rate, and review this podcast. You can also go to my website, michaelnye.org/podcast. For portraits and transcripts. There are so many ways, different ways to experience moments to their fullest. Thank you for listening.