Tandem cyclists

This Spring we are going to show New Zealand that people who are blind or have low vision can live a life without limits and achieve extraordinary things.

What is the 7 Day Challenge all about?

7 Blind Foundation clients will complete an epic 700km journey across the North Island in 7 gruelling days. This is a boundary breaking challenge with no winner and no clock to race against – just the satisfaction of living a life without limits, and all the tales that go with it.

The 7 Day Challenge is an exciting, demanding and fun, multisport challenge which will see participants biking the 100km flyer, running a marathon, canoeing the Wanganui River, sailing off the coast of Tauranga and hiking up Mount Tongariro and more.  It will test the boundaries of both brain and body and to prove that blindness or low vision is not a limit to how you live your life.

Meet the Team

Shannon Cleave – 37 – Paeroa

Shannon CleaveShannon grew up alongside her twin sister in the home of L&P, Paeroa. Going through the social hierarchy that is high school was challenging to say the least for Shannon and her sister who came up against daily bullying and ridicule. Being the older twin by a staggering 13 seconds meant Shan’s protective instincts kicked in from an early age. It was in her first year of high-school when she decided that “kids just being kids” wasn’t enough of an excuse anymore. She decided to take a stand and educate the student body on how to treat a person they perceive as different. And she has never looked back, Shan prides herself on her outspoken character and her ‘just say yes’ attitude.  She believes everyone has a choice in life and she chooses to live her life to the fullest. The 7 Day Challenge came to Shan at a time when she was searching for a goal to strive for. It has given her the motivation to get active every day and not let anything slow her down. Shannon knows it’s going to be challenging but as she put it “I’m not going to pull the ‘blind card’ on this one”.

Ben Geddes – 30 – Tauranga

Ben GeddesBorn and raised in the town with no traffic lights, Tokoroa, Waikato’s 5th largest town, Ben Geddes had what most would describe as a pretty Kiwi upbringing; fish and chips on the beach, family camping trips and ample time spent outdoors. A teenager who always struggled with the rigid constructs of the classroom, Ben is happiest when out in the elements. Scout trips, Blind Foundation camps and mountain hikes satisfied Ben’s longing for adventure throughout his youth. But a passion only discovered in recent years has given Ben the adrenaline rush and racing heart he has been longing for his whole life. 7 years ago Ben would never have thought of himself as a salty sea dog, but now, being an internationally recognised  sailor, he couldn’t imagine life without a bit of sea salt. With a healthy list of accolades to back his success, Ben feels sailing has given him direction in life and a true sense of confidence in his abilities. Ben sees The 7 Day Challenge as another opportunity to prove to the world that perceived barriers shouldn’t stop you achieving amazing things, with a little perseverance, adventurous spirit and the right wind in your sails you can achieve anything.

Hamish Tahana – 24 – Napier

Hamish TahanaHamish Tahana has already achieved so much in his 24 years on Earth. Growing up in Wanganui he was always outside, playing with his brother, neighbours and family dogs, Hamish was always active. And little has changed; his love for activity and sports has carried right through to his adult years and has not only kept Hamish motivated, healthy and happy but has also earned him a long list of impressive accolades. His sporting prowess has given Hamish the opportunity to travel the world doing what he loves. For the past 10 years he has travelled abroad to compete in Goalball championships where his team has had success in the Asia Oceania competition and the Australian nationals. More recently Hamish has found success in the world of Powerlifting, earning himself two New Zealand records for bench-press and deadlift. He hopes to share his passion for sports and adventures with fellow members of the blindness community and encourage them too to live a life without limits.

Neelusha Memon – 32 – Wellington

Neelu MemonNeelu’s Dunedin upbringing took a terrifying turn when she was admitted to hospital with what was thought to be a bad flu, but was in fact a damaging brain injury. She was in a coma for four months, which resulted in the loss of 70% of her vision. Months of rehabilitation subdued Neelu’s adventurous spirit and confidence and it took her many years to get back to the bold person she once was. Her insatiable taste for the outdoors was reignited in 2010 when she was encouraged to climb Mt Aspiring in Wanaka, and realised in the process that she could do anything.  She has never looked back. Neelu has now competed in World Paracycling, been the first blind woman to complete the Coast to Coast and now has her sights set on climbing the Seven Summits of the world. Neelu is without a doubt an intrepid athlete who has already achieved so much in her short life. The 7 Day Challenge has got Neelu excited about the opportunities ahead, specifically the group dynamic and achieving as a team. She hopes to prove once again that people with disabilities can achieve amazing things, if they’ve got the right attitude.

Peter Jones – 49 – Wellington

Peter JonesPeter Jones grew up in Tokoroa, finding pleasure in adventure and adrenaline as many boisterous young Kiwi boys did. Peter saw his home life as full of chores, so naturally he sought enjoyment with his friends, away from home. Despite his eye condition Peter has never let anything stop him doing what he loves. He worked on and managed dairy farms for 14 years, and his spare time was spent riding motorbikes at dangerous speeds, earning him the speedster reputation he still holds dear. Although his deteriorating sight meant Peter has more recently traded the motorbike for a tandem bicycle, he still gets a similar adrenaline rush from the new adventures he is undertaking. In the past few years, Peter has participated in several Blind Foundation run events including Outward Bound, Tasman Sea Kayaking and the Taupo running relay. The 7 Day Challenge has Peter excited about meeting other like-minded thrill seekers and he hopes to inspire more of the blind community to get outdoors and try new things.

Petronella Spicer – 59 – Christchurch

Petronella SpicerPetronella always has and always will call Christchurch home. She grew up there as the oldest of three children and loved the city so much she raised her own family there. Petronella’s sight loss in recent years hasn’t stopped her getting out there and enjoying the beauty of Christchurch. Petronella is still able to visualise some of what she and her guide dog Fletcher pass on their journeys across the city. Thanks mostly to the familiarity of her home town.  Petronella remains the outdoorsy type she always has been. Her go-getter attitude means she is always a regular attendee on Blind Foundation run tramps and walks. She looks at life with an infectious optimism.  This is something that she shares with the world through the Volunteer services co-ordination work she does at the Blind Foundation. This positive approach to life earned her a 2014 nomination for the Attitude Making a Difference Award, something she is incredibly proud of. The 7 Day Challenge has got Petronella really excited about the challenges ahead and the chance to show the world what she’s made of.

Johanne Frogatt – 51 – Christchurch

Jo FroggattJohanne Frogatt grew up as the only female in her house in the garden city of Christchurch. She describes herself as tough, and attributes this strength to her two older brothers who taught her from a young age to always be independent and that molly-coddling was forbidden in their home. In retrospect, Jo is thankful for this tough upbringing as she believes it has stood her in good stead for the challenges she has faced in her adult life. As her sight has deteriorated, Jo’s passion for educating people about sight loss has grown. She sees the 7 Day Challenge as a brilliant opportunity to show the world that people who are blind or have low vision can do anything. Jo feels a positive attitude and a healthy sense of humour is integral to a happy life, something she has always reminded herself of when raising her family. Jo feels confident that this optimism will get her through the 7 Day Challenge.

Image of the Blind Foundation logo

The Blind Foundation Year in Review, previously called the Annual Report, for 2015-2016 will be available around the 17 October for distribution in all formats (regular print, large print, braille, audio CD, and electronic).

Please note that again this year we will be distributing the Year in Review as a summary document, giving an overview of the Blind Foundation’s performance in the 2015-2016 financial year.

The summary includes:

  • News highlights.
  • Summarised financial statements.
  • Reporting against key targets.
  • A summarised report back against the business plan.
  • Fundraising highlights.The full financial reports and in-depth analysis against the business plan will also be available.

If you would like a copy of the Year in Review please send your requests via email to comms@blindfoundation.org.nz or call 0800 24 33 33 by Tuesday 13 September. All copies should be received by Friday 21 October.

Photo of Fatima with her grandson Aijalon Pua

Fatima Akehurst stops at nothing to get the best results for her clients. As somebody with low vision who has first-hand experience of our services, she says she dedicates her work to giving back.

Fatima is a Pacific Services Coordinator at the Blind Foundation Fale Kotuku office in South Auckland.

She coordinates Blind Foundation services for Pacific Island clients based in South Auckland right through to the Bay of Plenty. She also provides cultural support and works with our client services team and external agencies to help meet Pacific Island clients’ cultural-needs.

Another aspect of her work is getting out in the Pacific community to deliver our Blind Awareness Programmes (BAP). The programmes aim to educate the community on blindness and eye health.

For 12 years, Fatima has provided support for countless amounts of clients. She says that each one has a different story, some more complex than others.

“No matter how challenging their needs may be, I always make sure they meet their goals. It is the best feeling, seeing them achieve goals and simply being there for them.

“I absolutely love what I do. It is wonderful to have a great team and manager that support me” she says.

Fatima is a fantastic example of someone who is passionate about their work and about the services we offer.

She is not only a staff member, but also volunteers as the Chairperson for the Auckland Community Committee. Alongside that, she is one out of eight people who is part of Disability Faiva Ora. The group is a national advisory group that advocates for Pacific people with disabilities and their families.

“I may have sight loss, but I am blessed with great vision,” says Fatima.

Photo of Jackie Reynolds

Blind Foundation client Jackie Reynolds has always been passionate about helping others. She recalls that from a young age, people often sought her out for help.

When her youngest daughter turned 18, this mother of five, finally took the leap and enrolled for a Diploma of Counselling at Laidlaw College.

“Someone told me about this course and I knew it was time for me to take the next step. I went for an interview and got accepted and the rest is history” she says.

Since completing her Diploma in 2009, Jackie has worked as a counsellor in schools and as a volunteer for local community centres. When she lost her sight a few years ago, that didn’t stop her pursuing her dreams of one day running a counselling business.

“My sight does not affect my work at all. The most important thing to have is good listening skills. By recognising a person’s tone and words, you can tell if they are ok or not.

“Everything is in my head not my eyes. I plan strategies in my mind and I share it with my clients.”

This year Jackie has been working with the Blind Foundation employment team to start her own business. They’ve been assisting her with the legal paperwork, funding and eligibility.

She is now a supplier for Work and Income support, registered under the name ‘Jackie’s counselling service.’

“I have compassion for people who are suffering or in pain. I want to help them see the positive and give them the strategies to get there.”

Jackie hopes to branch out further and help more people by working with other local centres, the community, and churches. “If you want to reach for the stars and become somebody, just go for it with all the energy and confidence you have. Don’t stop there; look for services that can help you too. I am incredibly humble and grateful for the Blind Foundation services I continue to receive.”

Group photo at Camp Joe

The Blind Foundation’s new youth international development programme opens up a world of opportunity to future leaders. It includes opportunities for youth to develop skills in areas like leadership, presentations and project management.

As part of the experience, four Kiwi youth (aged 17 to 25) recently embarked on a journey of a lifetime on the shores of Lake Joseph in Toronto, Canada.

Amanda Beaver, Daniel Holt, Leah Morris, and Rachel Shardlow – who all have low vision – took part in the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB)’s Camp Joe in July.

The camp involved leadership workshops, employment seminars, networking opportunities, and fun recreational activities to enjoy the Canadian summer. The group also spent two days in Toronto to experience big city life.

Blair Gilbert, Blind Foundation National Manager of Community, Volunteers and Recreation Services, says the experience was a huge success.

“The camp gave the group an opportunity to not only build international connections but to understand differences in cultures, and have some fun as well. The group then got to meet the CNIB senior executive team and connect with the CNIB National Canadian Youth Council. They spent quality time talking with these individuals about the future of the blindness community.

“They were proud to represent New Zealand. As a result, they’ve developed international relationships and gained a better understanding of the blindness community on a global scale.”

21-year-old Leah says her experience is one she will never forget.

“It’s hard to express the whole camp experience in just a couple of words but what I can say about it is that it was a once in a lifetime experience. I learnt so much about myself as well as others, I was overwhelmed by how amazing it was. The contacts and connections I have made during this trip were outstanding and I am excited to be part of the future of the Blind Foundation.”

Now back from the trip, the team will lead on community projects to benefit other blind and low vision Kiwi youth. They will also share their experience and learnings with the Blind Foundation Board and staff, and other young clients.

Image of the Blind Foundation logo

It’s that time again; it’s time for Blind Foundation members to start thinking about the Board Elections.

This is a key opportunity for members to have a say in who leads the organisation forward for the next three years.  As a full, or governing, member of the Blind Foundation, you are eligible to vote in our annual Board Elections to elect our Board of Directors (link to Board directors info).

Call for nominations for Directors

This year, two vacancies exist for the General Seats and one vacancy for the Associates’ Seat.  Information about call for nominations to stand as a director is being sent out to members on Friday 19 August 2016.  If you would like to receive a nomination form, please contact the National Contact Centre on 0800 24 33 33.  All completed nominations must be received at the Blind Foundation, Awhina House, Auckland by 4:00pm on Friday 16 September 2016.

Voting Pack Information

Voting Packs will be sent to voting members on 6 October 2016. The voting pack includes

  • A cover letter.
  • A letter from the Board Chair, Rick Hoskin, and information on expectations of Board Directors of the Blind Foundation.
  •  Instructions on how to vote in either print, braille, TIS or via telephone dictation voting.
  • Information on each candidate standing in the election.
  • The notice of the 2016 AGM.
  • A proxy form for those who wish to nominate a proxy to vote on resolutions to be put to members at the AGM; and
  • A freepost envelope to mail back voting forms/cards and/or proxy form.

Audio Interviews with candidates

In addition, this year’s interviews with each of the 2016 candidates will be available on the Telephone Information Services (TIS) or on audio CD.  The TIS menu option will be confirmed closer to the time.

Damaged Voting Forms

If you should spoil or damage your voting forms, braille voting cards or return envelope, please contact the National Contact Centre on 0800 24 33 33 and replacements will be sent to you.

Further questions

If you have any questions about the election process, or how to vote, please phone National Contact Centre on 0800 24 33 33.

Please consider all the information careful and please do cast your votes in this year’s election.

2016 AGM

This year’s Annual General Meeting will be held on Saturday 12 November 2016 at 10.00am at the Blind Foundation Napier Office, 65 Thackaray Street, Napier 4110.

The business of the meeting is to:

  • Announce the results of the election of Directors.
  • Appoint the Auditor and
  • Consider the Annual Report for the year ended 30 June 2016.

There will be opportunities to ask questions or comment on the RNZFB’s activities and the Board’s direction.  Members who do not wish to travel to Napier for the AGM may participate in either of two ways:

  1. If there is enough interest, we hope to organise meetings at Blind Foundation’s offices in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington that will link to the AGM via telephone.
  2. Alternatively, you may participate by telephone from where you are.

The Notice of the AGM will be sent out to all members with the voting pack information on 6 October 2016.

We look forward to you being part of the elections this year.

guide dog puppy at home

Norah is a very social puppy so ‘paws on floor’ has been an important  command for her to learn. She was getting a little too excited and sometimes jumped up when she met people for the first time.

‘Settling’ is something Norah has become fabulous at. Her puppy walker has two children that swim competitively, so Norah spends a lot of time sitting quietly and patiently poolside at events. Good girl! Learning how to ‘leave’ is taking some time for Norah to understand because, as with most Labrador puppies, she thinks taking everyone’s stuff is a fun and mischievous game!

Norah and her puppy walker both enjoy their walks together with Norah often stopping to sniff all sorts of things. Her puppy walker says the only places that are torture for Norah are the butcher and supermarket! I think we all know why that might be.

Norah is growing into a big girl now and she even recently grew five beautiful new adult teeth. Just like that, our wonderful little Norah is well on the way to being a confident guide dog, ready to take on the challenge of changing one very special person’s life.

We all love you Norah xoxo