Honour for blindness’s best friend

2016-03-22 06:00

“Bam. What a man!”

These were the parting words of the acclamation read by Dr William Rowland, honorary president of the South African National Council for the Blind (SANCB), lauding the career of Philip Bam.

Bam received the RW Bowen Award last Wednesday during a ceremony celebrated with colleagues, friends and family members at the League of Friends of the Blind (Lofob) in First Road, Grassy Park.

DeservingBam, currently Lofob’s vice-president, is the 39th recipient of the prestigious accolade in the blindness sector.

President of Lofob and programme director on the evening Gregory Derris said “there is not a better person to receive this award”.

“He really deserves it for all the work he has been doing in the blindness sector,” Derris said.

The medal was bestowed on Bam by the SANCB for lifelong meritorious service to the blind community.

Bam has made major contributions in the blindness sector over the years, notably the development of Lofob services, especially the early childhood development (ECD) programme.

Lofob’s ECD programme was established 28 years ago and it’s impact is evident in the development in young blind adults now returning to Lofob for further services. At the SANCB he was at the forefront of the struggle to eradicate racism and correct the segregated structure long before apartheid was abolished.

He also served the SANCB as vice-chairperson and served on many of its subcommittees.

He supported Rowland, the then president of the World Blind Union, in his work at the United Nations to create the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Created women’s forumBam was also instrumental in establishing a local blind women’s forum to ensure that blind women had a voice in this sector. This later led to the establishment of South African Blind Women in Action.

In his acclamation, Rowland – who was a recipient of the same award in 2007 – described Bam as being the “tireless voice of the voiceless”.

He travelled extensively to all corners of the world, interacting with blindness agencies and activists. He was also the convener of the successful World Blind Union’s assembly in 2004, which was the first of its kind in Cape Town.

On the local front, Bam is a community activist involved in local civic matters on LOGRA Civic, the Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance and a community police forum.

He has also received numerous other accolades, including the Heart of the Earth medal in Poland and the Melvin Jones award from Lions International.

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