The League of Friends of the Blind (LOFOB) in Grassy Park has appointed its first woman executive at the helm of the organisation in almost 90 years of its existence.
Last month, the organisation appointed Shahiemah Edwards, who was born in District Six and grew up in Surrey Estate, as acting executive director.
“It is a very great achievement for me and I am honoured to step in this role,” she says.
Edwards, who started her journey at the League of Friends of the Blind in 1984, started off with the company when there were only a few staff members who worked from a hostel at the time.
“I’ve been here since 1984 as secretary and as the organisation grew and moved to a bigger building in Grassy Park in 1990.
“As the organisation grew, we evolved and expanded our services and the staff numbers became larger and the administration.”
During her years at LOFBOB, Edwards had many roles including director of administration and logistics and then later director of operations.
While the job has its challenges it is very rewarding, says Edwards.
“For me it is challenging because we work with blind people, you see how they go through their training and how they develop, then there are some who are newly blinded and adapt to their blindness and learn new skills. It is rewarding to me to see blind people grow and the new skills they learn.
“You feel you want to come to work and make a difference.”
She added that when she first completed school, she did not know which direction to take.
“It is a job I grew into and it is a job that is rewarding.”
As acting executive director, Edwards does not know how long she would be in this role but feels she had learnt from her predecessors who were like mentors.
“Of the three previous people in charge, they were all male and I worked under two of them, learnt from them and they were kind of my mentors in a way. Everyone tells me that I need to step in my own shoes and follow in my own shoes. Obviously, they have achieved great things for the organisation.”
In her spare time Edwards is involved in cricket for the blind.
“I’m the secretary of Western Province blind cricket, so we also trying to develop sport for blind people. That is what I do in my leisure time.”
LOFOB president, Lionel Jacobs, said the organisation welcomes strong leadership as they continue to provide, quality and independent development for blind people.
“That leadership is an action, not a position, and in my many years of knowing Ms. Edwards, the quote certainly stands her in good stead.
“We welcome Ms Edwards’ appointment and wish her well as she leads LOFOB into a new era.”
Her dedication, skill, and expertise speedily saw her rise within the structures and she became the nerve centre of the organisation, he added.
The League of Friends of the Blind offers Early Childhood Development programmes including the LOFOB Pre-School, which provide stimulation to 73 children daily.
Meanwhile the LOFOB Academy, which offers a course for mobility instructors, includes a number of visually impaired women trainers, skill development and independence training for adults.