Sabriye Tenberken
Sabriye Tenberken DSC7009b.JPG
Sabriye Tenberken at kanthari international
Born1970 (age 51–52)

Sabriye Tenberken (born 1970) is a German tibetologist and co-founder of the organisation Braille Without Borders.


Sabriye Tenberken & Paul Kronenberg
Sabriye Tenberken & Paul Kronenberg

Sabriye was born in Cologne, West Germany. She lost her sight slowly as a child due to retinal disease, and her parents took her to many places so she would store up many visual memories, before becoming totally blind by the age of 12. She studied Central Asian Studies at Bonn University. In addition to Mongolian and modern Chinese, she studied modern and classical Tibetan in combination with Sociology and Philosophy.

Braille for the Tibetan language

Main article: Tibetan Braille

As no blind student had ever before ventured to enroll in these kinds of studies, Sabriye could not fall back on the experience of previous students, so she developed her own methods of studying her course of study. By 1992 Sabriye had developed Tibetan Braille, which later became the official reading and writing system for the blind in Tibet. Tibetan Braille is based on German Braille, modified to accommodate the Tibetan script. For example, Tibetan ka, kha, ga, nga are written with the standard Braille letters for k, c, g and lowered g. It was submitted for examination to a Tibetan scholar, who found it to be readily understandable, simple, and easy to learn.[citation needed]

A school for the blind

In 1997, Sabriye travelled to Tibet alone in order to assess the situation of the blind there. Returning in 1998, she founded the Centre for the Blind in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, to educate blind people, together with Paul Kronenberg whom she had met there the year before.[1] Before that, most blind children were hidden away from the world by their family members who were reluctant to send them to school. The school started with five children, with Sabriye initially teaching the children herself, as well as serving as coordinator and advisor. She then began training native Tibetans as teachers, selecting and supervising all staff-members of the Centre.

The project's progress was not without difficulties and setbacks. Sabriye was able eventually to turn over the running of the Centre to one of her former students who trained as a teacher.

In 2017, her visa was no longer extended, and the school was threatened with closure. [2]

Braille Without Borders (BWB)

Main article: Braille Without Borders

In 1998 Paul joined Sabriye in establishing the Project for the Blind, Tibet. In September, 2002, the name was changed to Braille Without Borders, BWB. In addition to the school in Lhasa BWB runs a vocational training centre for blind adults with a farm and cheese factory near Shigatse.

kanthari international

Main article: kanthari international

In 2009, Sabriye Tenberken and her partner Paul Kronenberg also began kanthari international (name intentionally spelled with all letters in lower case) in a village near Thiruvananthapuram, India, They also established an International School for Development and Project Planning near Trivandrum, Kerala, India. The school focuses on discovering and developing the hidden talents of persons from all over the world who often are socially neglected, especially because of disabilities, and empowering them to be innovators and leaders.

Honours and awards

Appearances in films/talk shows



  1. ^ Mansi Choksi (2014-06-08). "Sabriye Tenberken: Using Adversity to Unleash Innovation". National Geographic. Retrieved 2020-01-10.
  2. ^ Freedom House (2015-03-15). "Freedom in the World 2018 - Tibet". UNHCR. Retrieved 2020-01-10.
  3. ^ 2014 Archived 2014-11-12 at the Wayback Machine, Nov 03, 2014
  4. ^ 2009年度感动中国人物评选颁奖词, Feb 11th, 2010