Rowan Garel signs a book about his life, with his mother, Milagro, in Taiwan.

Rowan Garel is recognized at N.Y.C. ceremony, signs book about his life in Taiwan.

October 2017 – Drew University sophomore Rowan Garel was honored in Taiwan, where a children’s book about him was translated into Mandarin and distributed to schools there.

The student, who has been blind since birth, is the protagonist of Climb Walk Dive: The Adventures of Rowan Garel, published in his native Belize last year. The book chronicles adventures undertaken by Garel and his father, Joe, to raise funds for the Belize Council for the Visually Impaired, which sponsors summer camps and helps more than 3,000 children.

When Garel was 12, he and his father climbed Victoria Peak, one of Belize’s highest mountains. The following year they—along with his mother, Milagro, and other relatives—walked 90 miles across the country. Then in 2013, Rowan, his father and sister, Aesha, dove into the famed Great Blue Hole in the Lighthouse Reef Atoll.

Climb Walk Dive, written by Katie Usher and Gia Martinez and illustrated by Marvin Vernon, caught the attention of the Taiwan ambassador to Belize, who arranged for the inspirational story be translated from English into Mandarin. All proceeds from the sale of the book go to the Belize Council.

Life story recognized

In July, the Chou Ta-Kuan Foundation of Taiwan presented Garel with an award in New York and the recognition continued in September, when he and his mother traveled to Taiwan and attended a book signing for Climb Walk Dive.

The visit included a trip to a night market and “lots and lots of seafood, which I love,” Garel said. He also met Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, the first woman to hold the job.

Rowan feels at home at Drew. “I love Drew. It’s a small campus, so I can learn all the paths and everyone here is so accommodating,” said Rowan, who has yet to declare a major. “The classes are very small and you’re not just a number here—your teachers want to get to know you.”

The Chou Ta-Kuan Foundation is named after a boy who died of cancer shortly before his 10th birthday in 1997. The boy, who was a violinist and poet, lost a leg to the disease and was also the subject of two children’s books. His family established the foundation to recognize those like him who exhibit brave optimism in the face of hardship.