CELEBRATING 80 YEARS OF SERVICE
TO THE VISUALLY IMPAIRED COMMUNITY
To survive a world war, the ravages of apartheid and economic discrimination, must count amongst some of the greatest achievements of any social movement within South Africa. The League of Friends of the Blind [LOFOB] celebrates such an achievement this year as it looks back on 80 years of service to visually impaired people, mainly of the disadvantaged communities.
LOFOB was officially formed in 1933 following on the initiative of its founders Rev Arthur Blaxall and Mr Isaac Jacobs, to establish a school for visually impaired black and coloured children. Mr Isaac Jacobs, himself a blind person, could not attend the only school for blind children in the Western Cape, because he was not of the privileged white group. After founding the school, where he enrolled for formal education at the age of nineteen, he focused his attention on providing accommodation for the ladies from the rural areas who completed their vocational training at the school so that they could take up employment in Cape Town.
LOFOB has since developed from a charity relief organization to a human development service, having pioneered independence development for visually impaired people. LOFOB’s services are grounded in the belief that blind people should not be excluded from the mainstream society and economy. Whilst the focus is on empowerment and integration, the organization will continue to provide for those who cannot fend for themselves.
In the 80 years, LOFOB had to experience the cold, ugly face of apartheid in 1966 as their white colleagues in the S A National Council for the Blind supported a government decree that each racial group should have their own councils. The delegates to the SANCB conference, who were not white, mostly from LOFOB, were ordered to leave the gathering.
LOFOB remained true to its credo of non-racialism and continued to fight the segregation in the blindness field. LOFOB was the prime mover in the disbanding of the “coloured” division of the SANCB and the adoption of a non-racial constitution for the SANCB in 1981, even before the new non-racial democracy was established in South Africa.
LOFOB’s Executive Director then became the first person of colour to be elected as an office bearer of the national body.
Since 1979, LOFOB moved its focus from a purely volunteer organization to a professional service empowering blind people to become independent participants in society.
Today, LOFOB celebrates the establishment of supported living for indigent blind people, the implementation of a world class Early Childhood Development service and a comprehensive Wellness and Independence Development Programme.
The LOFOB programmes serve people from all over the country where similar services are not available. Assessment for insurance claims and re-introduction to the work place form an integral part of the stable of services.
The causes of blindness have shifted and today many victims of violence including shootings call on LOFOB for services. Young victims are assisted to complete their formal schooling, through night school and correspondence.
The challenges are tremendous. Funding priorities have changed and whereas blindness was once top of the donor list, it has now been overtaken by the more popular causes. LOFOB, like many NGO’s struggle to make ends meet in the present trying economic times.
This year LOFOB celebrate, amongst others, 80 years of:
Steadfast commitment to service
A proud record of financial management under most difficult conditions
The development of innovative approaches to blindness and independence development
The victories of overcoming political and economic prejudices
Continued community education for inclusion of blind people in the open economy
Principled leadership in the blindness sector
The development of a comprehensive wellness and independence development programme,
Establishing the first ECD programme for visually impaired infants and toddlers.
Worldwide recognition as a best practice example of development of services in a poor community.
The celebrations will include a Thanks-giving church service; blind buddy day; a conference of blind people; sight restoration campaign and a Dinner-in-the-dark.
MEDIA RELEASE: 30th NOVEMBER 2012
LOFOB MANAGER ELECTED TO WORLD BLIND CRICKET COUNCIL
The League of Friends of the Blind[LOFOB] is pleased to announce that its Manager: Wellness and Independence Development, Armand Bam has been elected as Technical Director and Director of African Development for blind cricket at the meeting of the World Blind Cricket Council in Bangalore on 29th November 2012. Armand Bam is also the coach of the South African National Blind Cricket team participating in the first-ever T20 Blind cricket World Cup where nine nations will be competing for the trophy. Armand is a Biokineticist and holds a masters in Disability studies. He is one of four South Africans elected to international positions in the last few weeks in the blindness sector at various world bodies representing blind people.
LOFOB has been at the forefront of the new development and growth of blind cricket in South Africa. Sport and recreation for blind people forms an integral part of LOFOB's independence development programme for visually impaired persons. The LOFOB blind cricket club produced three of the players in the National squad now in India. Sporting skills are also used as part of the development of visually impaired pre-schoolers in the LOFOB ECD programme.
LOFOB's programmes are designed to assist blind people to reintegrate into society and stop the exclusion of blind people. Through the development of sport we believe we can make a difference and give marginalized blind people a sense of belonging and encourage community acceptance and integration of blind people.
Armand Bam can be contacted for comment on 0836583885.
21 November 2012
Blind cricketer from KZN appointed Vice-Captain of national team
Amongst those who received national colours for the very first time at a special ceremony in Cape Town on Friday, 16 November 2012 was Desigan Pillay, a blind cricketer from KZN who was also selected Vice-Captain of the South African National Blind Cricket Team.
This was an incredible moment in the lives of aspiring blind cricketers who are enthusiastically preparing to represent South Africa in the up-coming T20 blind Cricket World Cup to be held in Bangalore India from 1-13 December 2012.
The announcement was one of the most memorable moments and greatest achievement in Desigan’s 14-year career in blind cricket. Desigan is also Captain of the KZN Association For Blind Cricket since 2005. This talented cricketer was also nominated in 2005 for the KZN premier’s award in the category of disabled sportsman of the year.
Team South Africa departs for India on Monday, 26 November and representatives from Western Cape, KZN and Gauteng will be at their respective airports at 15h00. The KZN delegation includes Shane Mahabeer, Assistant Manager, Desigan Pillay, Vice Captain and Mookash Parmeswar.
For further comment please contact Armand Bam, Coach of the South African team and National Coordinator for Blind Cricket South Africa on (021) 705-3753 or 0716330699.
MEDIA RELEASE: 03 November 2011
As Eye Care Awareness month draws to a close the League of Friends of the Blind (LOFOB) and the Cape Eye Hospital is pleased to announce that it has been instrumental in restoring the gift of sight to a number of indigent individuals for the third consecutive year. The campaign affords individuals living with cataracts the opportunity for free cataract removal and lens replacement surgery.
Cataracts are a cloudiness of the lens making it difficult for light to pass through and results in a loss of vision. Cataracts remain the leading cause of avoidable blindness worldwide and are the cause of 50% of blindness. Therefore state hospitals are inundated with requests for cataract removals and patients can wait between two to five years before they are assisted.
Among such cases referred this year is Mr Arthur Michaels*, 39, who has been unemployed for the past four years, as he could simply not cope with the demands of the working world with such poor vision. Mr Michaels who has recently undergone the operation described how much the operation meant to him as the restoration of his sight would open employment opportunities to him. He said: “Words could not explain the joy I felt when the patch was removed and I am confident I have a bright future ahead”. Another candidate Mrs Priscilla Winkworth* , who has been on a waiting list for 3 years, came knocking at LOFOB’s door for assistance as she eventually went blind due to cataracts. Feeling very emotional and overwhelmed, Mrs Winkworth could not find the words to express her gratitude, and broke out into the song: “I can see clearly now...” Like these two candidates there were many desperately in need of assistance and whose lives we had an opportunity to change.
The partnership between LOFOB and the Cape Eye Hospital is scheduled to continue in 2012 and candidates are invited to submit applications for assistance with cataract removals and lens replacement surgery.
(*Names have been changed)
For more information please contact LOFOB Public relations Officer, Heidi Volkwijn on (021) 705-3753.
Issued by: Philip M Bam, Executive Director of LOFOB
MEDIA RELEASE: 24 OCTOBER 2011
LOFOB SERVING THE BLIND ON NATIONAL BODY
LOFOB is proud to announce that two of its members have been elected to serve on the governance structures of the South African National Council for the Blind. Executive Director Philip Bam was elected as Deputy Chairperson of the SANCB at its Biennial Conference held in Kimberley last week. Heidi Volkwijn, LOFOB's PRO represents the Western Cape on the National Executive Committee. "This is indeed a great honor for LOFOB as it continues to work to change what it means to be blind, says Richard Arends, President of LOFOB. Mr Bam has a wealth of knowledge and experience which he brings to the National blindness service and Heidi Volkwijn, herself a blind person, is very strong on women representation and will push gender equality issues."
LOFOB is one of the leading agencies in the blindness sector having pioneered some interesting aspects of services to blind people. LOFOB recently entered into a service delivery agreement with the SANCB to undertake a survey of the state of sport for the blind in South Africa. A preliminary report was presented to the Biennial Conference by Armand Bam, LOFOB's wellness and Independence Development Manager. The report revealed some startling data on the state of sports for the blind in the country.
"There are still tremendous gaps in services for blind people throughout the country and we need to ensure that all blind people have access to basic services. Early Childhood Development for blind children is lacking in vast parts of the country and this will have to be corrected. It is vital that all visually impaired toddlers and their parents are reached and provided with basic services to lay firm foundations, says Philip Bam, newly elected deputy Chairperson of the SANCB."
For more information and comment contact Philip Bam or Heidi Volkwijn on 0217053753.
MEDIA STATEMENT BY EXEUTIVE DIRECTOR OF LOFOB
The League of Friends of the Blind [LOFOB] welcomes the news that great progress is being made towards an international treaty that would improve access for blind people to books. LOFOB is an associate member of the World Blind Union(WBU) and supports the efforts of the WBU in fighting to ease the copyright restrictions that makes access to books extremely difficult. The President of the WBU, Ms Maryanne Diamond of Australia commented as follows after the latest meeting in Geneva: “I am delighted at the progress made at this meeting. The new draft text provides the Committee with a good basis for completing its work on a treaty. A new law would help us end the “book famine”.”
It is of great concern to LOFOB that people living with a print disability still have very limited access to books and other published works. Only some 5% of published books are ever made accessible in richer countries, and less than 1% in poorer ones. The national nature of copyright law prevents the import and export of accessible books. The treaty would remove this legal barrier to sharing resources across borders. That would allow many hundreds of thousands of books to circulate between blind people’s organisations in different countries
LOFOB looks forward to the completion of the process and urge our own government to support such a treaty.