‘Blindness is not end of the road’

2017-11-14 06:00


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A member of the League of the Friends of the Blind (Lofob) in Grassy Park is calling on the community to stand together in support of those struggling to find their feet after losing their eyesight.

The community worker and manager of Lofob, Heidi Volkwijn, says it is never too late to start over.

Her journey started after losing her sight while writing her Grade 11 school exams.

“The hardest part of my journey is undoubtedly my experience of losing my sight at the age of 17.

“I cannot begin to describe my feelings of despair and disbelief as doctors told my parents they had done all they could to save my sight and there was no chance of me ever seeing again,” she says.

“It felt like I was caught up in a disastrous whirlwind as I contemplated my future. I had big dreams of my future studies, dreamt of falling in love with the man of my dreams and one day having a family ... and then the carpet was pulled out from under me.”

She was brought to Lofob.

After getting the necessary help from the centre, Volkwijn managed to work herself up with the hopes of inspiring other people in the same situation.

She went through an independence training programme and later became a skills developer, training other blind people to be independent.

She was later offered the position of spokesperson, which she took for the next 12 years.

“It took hard work and tremendous courage to pull my life together from that ­experience.

“Therefore, I would say my most rewarding experience is the fact that I manage the services to youth and adults programme at Lofob because I have the opportunity every day to inspire young blind people who walk through our doors and to tell them that blindness does not have to mean the end of the road,” she explains.

“It is not an easy journey to go through, but with the correct support and independence training there is nothing a blind person can’t achieve.

“My life is richer every day when I see a blind person progressing and overcoming the challenges they have been presented with because of their disability.”

Volkwijn has completed various courses and served on a number of committees of the South African National Council for the Blind in the Western Cape.

In 2008, she presented a paper on sustaining and developing a community-based organisation at the World Blind Union General Assembly in Switzerland.

She is married and has a 16-year-old daughter.

“One of my favourite quotes is by Thomas Edison: ‘Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time,’” she adds.

V For more information visit the League of Friends of the Blind – Lofob on Facebook.


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