Insight Outward Bound 2016 group photo

The Blind Foundation is very pleased to be able to offer the chance to clients and members to discover their full potential through a life changing adventure in the outdoors through taking up the challenge of participating in an Outward Bound course.

Participants will be pushed to their limits and challenged in a whole new way. Together with their team they’ll experience a range of adventurous activities developing confidence and courage, in some of the most amazing places in New Zealand.

Participants will spend time discovering themselves and their values, challenging ingrained limitations of what is possible, and form lifelong friendships along the way.

It’s a high energy course with little downtime but still perfectly balanced for those looking for physical challenge and those seeking a reflective experience. And you don’t need to be young to attend, our oldest clients to participate so far have been in their late 60’s!

If you know of anyone who would be interested in this course please spread the word. If they are not sure if it is for them we can put potential attendees in touch with past participants who are happy to answer their questions.

Course cost

$500 plus travel to and from Picton. There are funding options available in some cases.


3 to 10 March 2017

Applications are encouraged from clients and members:

  • 18 years or above at course start.
  • Can participate in a full day’s activities; include walking for a full day.
  • Be comfortable in water and getting their head under water (life jackets are always available).
  • Can attend without your own carer or guide dog (can bring personal cane).
  • Have experience away from home and can work in a team environment.

Applications are open now, there are limited places available and they will be filled on a first come basis, subject to screening and acceptance by Outward Bound.

Contact by emailing Deb Nash or phoning Deb on 09 355 6915 for more information or to apply.

Applications close Monday 7 November 2016.

Wendy and her guide dog

The legacy of deafblind trailblazer Helen Keller will be celebrated around the world on Monday, 27 June, which is Helen Keller Communication Day.

This year marks the American author, political activist, lecturer and deafblind advocate’s 136th birthday.

The Blind Foundation provides services to more than 600 deafblind people around the country.

Aucklander Wendy Chiang, who has been deafblind since childhood, plans to take part in the Blind Foundation’s commemorations.

“Technically, I have been deafblind since I was two and a half, but it was my vision that bothered me until I had surgery in my teens which took a lot of my hearing,” she says.

Wendy completed a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and education and a post-graduate diploma in public health.

She also worked at Auckland University as a research assistant, which involved tasks like transcription, interviews, focus groups and analysis work.

Wendy hopes to eventually do her master’s degree in public health and do a research-based thesis involving deafblindness or blindness.

The Blind Foundation will hold Helen Keller Communication Day celebrations in south Auckland, Waikato, Napier and Invercargill, along with an event in Christchurch in conjunction with the Deafblind Association of New Zealand.

Image of the Blind Foundation logo

The Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind (RNZFB) seeks expressions of interest from those who are thinking of standing in the 2016 RNZFB Board Elections to attend an information day.

This year, two vacancies for general seats exist on the RNZFB Board.  The two incumbent directors whose terms are up for election this year are:

  • Judy Small; and
  • Pamela MacNeill (who recently filled the casual vacancy left by Chung-Pin Lin).

In addition, the associate seat is also up for election.  The current Associate Director is Paul Sullivan.  These Directors may wish to stand again.

Following a survey of those Directors who will remain on the Board after the 2016 election, the areas where the Board’s function could be enhanced further include:

  • legal oversight
  • financial management and knowledge of financial markets
  • information technology and digital strategy
  • managing risk
  • business analysis
  • property governance
  • young person’s representation.

If sufficient interest is shown, the RNZFB will run an information day or candidates’ college for prospective nominees on Saturday 13 August 2016 in Auckland.

The programme will cover topics such as:

  • Background to the RNZFB’s governance model;
  • The role and expectation of Boards;
  • Being an effective Board director;
  • An overview of the RNZFB today, with reference to the strategic plan and executive structure;
  • The RNZFB’s financial base, financial management, property management, fundraising and implications for Board directors;
  • Delivering service in a member-directed, client focused, financially sustainable and evidence-driven organisation;
  • Consumerism and consumer organisations; and
  • Time for questions and answers.

Board directors are expected to be familiar with member interests and perspectives, and to shoulder fiduciary, legal and financial responsibilities.

If you are thinking of standing for the Board, it is worth asking yourself:

  • Am I committed to the broad vision and mission of the RNZFB?
  • Can I contribute the time necessary to be an effective Board director – six Friday and Saturday Board meetings, with up to another four Saturdays in the year, plus many hours of preparation time for each meeting?
  • Can I place the RNZFB’s purposes and interests and the well-being of members above my own professional and personal interests?

Among the competencies sought in effective Board directors are:

  • Understanding the needs of blind people and those with low vision in New Zealand;
  • A sound knowledge of the not-for-profit disability sector;
  • Informed business judgment;
  • Being an independent, creative and critical thinker;
  • Having high ethical standards;
  • Down-to-earth common sense;
  • Being a listener and learner;
  • An ability to see the big picture, stay out of management and work in a team;
  • The capability to harmonise strategies with budgets;
  • An understanding of the impact of technology and how the organisation is run;
  • Demonstrated skills in areas such as governance, audit, finance and risk management, communications, fundraising and advocacy; and
  • Above all, a readiness to learn about the business the RNZFB is in.

It is preferable that candidates have access to information via a computer with an internet connection, or an alternative means of dealing with agendas and reports bi-monthly that are typically over 200 pages of print.

If you fit the above criteria, the RNZFB welcomes you to register your interest in the information day with the Board Secretary, Jane Moore, telephone: 09 355 6894 or email: by Thursday 21 July 2016.  Please also send a short summary of your background and what you can contribute to the work of the RNZFB’s Board.

The RNZFB will meet reasonable day travel expenses for candidates.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Rick Hoskin
Board Chair
Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind

Additional information about the 2016 RNZFB Board Elections

The RNZFB Board comprises nine elected directors.  Eight are elected in General seats by governing members of the RNZFB and parents or guardians of children registered with the RNZFB while the remaining director is elected in the Associate seat by the RNZFB’s Associate membership.

This year there will be an election for two classes of seat, two General seats, and the one Associate seat.  All three directors may wish to stand again.

A candidate seeking election in a General seat must be nominated by two governing or guardian members of the RNZFB.  Please note that the three successful candidates in this election will receive a three-year term in office.

A candidate seeking election in the Associate seat must be nominated by two Associate Members of the RNZFB.  Note that the successful candidate in this election will receive a three-year term in office.

Voting papers in the 2016 election will be sent out on 6 October 2016 with the ballot closing on 4 November 2016 at 4:00pm.  The results will be announced at the Annual General Meeting, which this year is being held in Napier on Saturday 12 November 2016.

Photo of Felicity at Hokitika Gorge in the South Island.

This month we introduce you to Felicity Hutcheson, Regional Leader, Community, Volunteers and Recreation (CVR) from Wellington.

Felicity leads the CVR team in the lower North Island to expand life enrichment opportunities for Blind Foundation clients. This includes peer support and recreation activities. To make these activities happen, Felicity works with the local communities and volunteers.

For Felicity, each week is a mixed bag of treats. She works with her team to explore what clients enjoy doing and deciding how they can make it happen. This requires project work and lots of relationship management.

“Working in the not for profit sector with volunteers is one of the best things about the Blind Foundation” she says.

“Volunteers are here because they want to be. We are working with people who get a great buzz out of participating in the organisation in a useful way.”

Felicity has worked at the Blind Foundation for eight and a half years. She says that working with a great team of talented people is the icing on the cake.

“The CVR team has only been in existence for a year. In that short time, we’ve been able to initiate a number of new recreational and social opportunities that would not have been possible before.”

Before the Blind Foundation, Felicity worked as a mediator/facilitator and trainer in both public and private sectors.

Outside of work you can find her working on a quilt or on a gorgeous day, out in her garden. She is married to Paul; they live with guide dog Nellie and their daughter, who is temporarily back from the UK.

Photo of striders walking group on a walk

Meet Blind Foundation client and recreation volunteer Benny Foar.

Last month Benny started two walking groups for Blind Foundation clients and staff in Parnell, Auckland.

Photo of Benny
Photo of Benny

Benny runs the Amblers walking group (low intensity) on Mondays and the Striders walking group (high intensity) on Wednesdays. Both groups run during lunchtime to enable staff to participate and facilitate visiting clients to add in an exercise option to their day.

When Benny joined the Blind Foundation, he started to participate in recreation group activities. He found that interacting with other Blind Foundation clients helped ease the sense of isolation that he had been feeling from sight loss.

“I found talking with other clients was the best way to pick up practical tips on meeting with my own challenges. I was often inspired by their willingness to try out something new.”

Benny lives five minutes away from the Auckland Domain which he often calls “his own backyard.” Walking around the Domain and nearby reserves, Benny has become familiar with all the surrounding walking trails. Taking advantage of his local knowledge, the opportunity to guide other clients on walks was offered to Benny.

“When the walks were formalised, I was very pleased and happy to volunteer when asked. The walks fit comfortably into my daily exercise routine and for the clients and staff who take advantage of this opportunity to get some exercise in beautiful surroundings, it’s a win win for all.”

Lisa McCallum, Gym Manager, supports Benny with his walking groups and is proud of what he’s achieved. She says:

“When you set your mind to it; there’s nothing you cannot accomplish the limitation is not believing in yourself.

“Benny is adventurous; he feeds his spirit, trains his body and focuses his mind on his beliefs’. There’s nothing Benny cannot accomplish as he overcomes his fears by following his dreams.”

Read details on the Amblers walking group or the Striders walking group.

Photo of Hazem on his graduation day. Hazem is in his cap and gown holding his master’s degree.

Blind Foundation client Hazem Abd Elkader was born with albinism and is passionate about raising awareness for it.

Hazem wanted to share the story of people with albinism so he dedicated this to his thesis. Hazem completed his Master of Arts in Social Sciences with his thesis ‘People with albinism in New Zealand’ in 2015.

The study looks at finding the needs of people with albinism in NZ and assessing how well these are being met. His study showed that people with albinism in New Zealand face socio economic challenges.

“It is a rare condition that is often misunderstood, we look different and we get treated differently. Albinos face challenges with things such as employment, education and transport as a result of the condition” says Hazem.

“The issue is the attitude towards albinism. Raising awareness is important to help mitigate that. That is why it’s so important to me.”

Born in Egypt, Hazem was familiar with these challenges which were amplified because he couldn’t speak English. But he says he chose to believe in himself and his advice to others with albinism is to face the condition.

“I chose to be independent and believed that I could make a better life for myself. I wanted to be a professional, be able to support myself, have a family and job.

“I was lucky enough to receive support for my thesis from the Blind Foundation and Albinism Trust. A lot of people have helped me on my journey and have contributed to what I have achieved today.”

Hazem has plans to develop on his studies and has plans to start a PhD on people with albinism in early 2017.

Photo of Parveen working at Guide Dogs reception.

On Fridays Blind Foundation client Parveen Shankar lends a helping hand at Guide Dogs.

Parveen has been volunteering at Guide Dogs for over a year. He works in the reception area and helps the team with general office duties.

“I answer phone queries, print reports, count pages and make folders. They show me how to carry out these tasks which is great training for me,” he says.

Part of the work involves putting together the puppy packs that go to our puppy walkers. The pack includes a bowl, lead, worm and flea tablets and a dog brush.

“It’s such a good experience; I’m learning new things and meeting new people every day. I enjoy seeing people come in with guide dogs, talking to them and giving the dogs a pat!”

Parveen says he hopes the experience from volunteering at the Blind Foundation will also help him with employment.

The Guide Dogs team appreciate having Parveen on board, Sheryl Davis, Guide Dogs Service Administration Manager says:

“Parveen assists callers and visitors to the Centre, along with many other tasks that support the work of the wider Admin team and, therefore, the Guide Dog service as a whole – he is a very reliable member of our team.”

Parveen also supports the Blind Foundation by collecting for our appeals. This year Parveen collected for the Red Puppy Appeal.

“It’s good to go out and collect for the puppies. Without the funding we can’t train the guide dogs,” says Parveen.

Image of the Blind Foundation logo

Mr Chung-Pin Lin has informed the RNZFB Board that he is stepping down as a director for personal reasons. CP was first elected to the Board in November 2013. The Board takes this opportunity to thank CP for his contribution during his tenure and to wish him well for his future endeavours.

In line with the casual vacancies clause in the Constitution, Mrs Pamela MacNeill will replace CP on the Board as the fourth placed candidate in the 2015 elections. Pam will take up her appointment in July. Pam has been a member of the Blind Foundation since the age of nine. She lives in Upper Hutt with her husband and retired guide dog.

Pam brings a breadth of knowledge, skills and experience to the board table including a directorship with Workbridge. She has held a number of leadership roles with the Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner, Capital and Coast DHB as well as the Ministry of Health. She is currently the Managing Director of Disability Responsiveness New Zealand. This is a social enterprise established to provide education and training about disability responsiveness to all sectors of New Zealand society. They also look at capability building opportunities for disabled people.

The RNZFB congratulates Pamela MacNeill on her appointment and the RNZFB Board of Directors look forward to her taking up her seat at the table next month.

a girl holding a seedling

If you haven’t applied for the 2016 Consumer SEED Leadership course get it in soon. The deadline for applications is Friday 15 July.

SEED stands for Success, Empowerment, Excellence and Developing self and others.

This is a fantastic opportunity to join the dozens of blind community members who have embarked on a path of self-development and improvement through attending the SEED Leadership Programme.

The next course will be held in Dunedin from Monday August 29 to Wednesday August 31 2016.

Who can attend?

Clients and family members of clients, who would like to build leadership skills, explore their personal style, and who already participate in community based projects or would like to in the future, are invited to apply.

The Consumer SEED programme theme ‘leading self and then leading others’ will continue this year and will be a guiding principle of the programme.

What will you gain from the programme?

  • Practical skills to work effectively within, and for your group or community
  • Working collaboratively
  • Influencing change
  • Motivating others
  • Peer support
  • Community leadership
  • Giving and receiving feedback
  • Effective problem solving

The Blind Foundation offers this programme, including accommodation and travel with no cost to clients, insuring all have an equal opportunity to become leaders in their community.

If you are interested in taking part download the Consumer SEED application form and return it to Felicity Hutcheson at

Photo of Orchestra Wellington logo

Orchestra Wellington is offering Blind foundation clients special discounted rates for performances as part of Season 2016 at the Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington.

Blind Foundation clients are offered the special ticket prices below:

  • $20 for seats in the front two rows (limited visibility).
  • $40 for all other seats in the hall (if you have a vision support person. attending with you, their entrance will be free).
  • $12 Community Services Card.
  • $12 Tertiary student.
  • $10 Child (if you have a vision support person attending with you, their entrance will be free).

There is a range of performances available throughout the year for you and your family to enjoy.

Season 2016 programme:

Please contact Frances Watling at the Blind Foundation for more information about any of the programmes by emailing or phoning 04 380 2151.