Image shows the 2016 Seven Day Challenge participants in the outdoors.

Seven Kiwis with sight loss, seven days, 700km to travel and a host of epic physical tasks were the ingredients for a unique and inspiring challenge.

For the first time in October, the 7 Day Challenge took place as part of Blind Week. It proved to be an unforgettable experience.

Blair Gilbert, Blind Foundation National Manager Community, Recreation and Volunteer Services, came up with the idea for the event.

“I said to my mate, ‘Let’s do a 7 Day Challenge – let’s climb some mountains, paddle some rivers and run some hills. I want to show New Zealanders that people who are blind or have low vision can do anything they set their mind to. I know so many strong, inspirational clients with the Blind Foundation – I’m going to see if they will do it with me’.”

Blind Foundation clients Ben Geddes, Hamish Tahana, Jo Froggatt, Neelusha Memon, Peter Jones, Petronella Spicer and Shannon Cleave signed up to tackle the inaugural challenge.

The team began its quest in Tauranga and made its way to Wellington.

The participants were quickly immersed in the adventure, spending the first day white water rafting on the Kaituna River.

That included a massive drop down a seven metre-high waterfall, which is considered one of the world’s highest commercially-rafted waterfalls.

“That was a real adrenaline rush,” says Jo. “I enjoyed the water activities the most.”

From there, they did a marathon relay from Tauranga to Rotorua and paddled a waka across Lake Rotorua. Once on the shore, they were welcomed with a kapa haka performance before staying at Tunohopu Marae.

Day three involved tandem cycling the Taupo Flyer route to Taupo and they barely had time to rest their legs before climbing Mt Tongariro the next day.

For Peter, climbing the mountain and eating lunch on the edge of the summit crater made it his favourite day.

“It was a magic moment for me.”

After the heights of the Tongariro summit, the challengers spent a day jet boating up the Whanganui River. After visiting the Tieke Marae, the crew canoed back down the river.

On the penultimate day of the adventure, they hiked down the Kapiti Coast.

The challenges of the final day were kept secret from the participants. They had to complete them in an Amazing Race style. New instructions texted to them at each location.

They made their way to the Paekakariki train station and travelled into Wellington. Their finale was to climb Mt Victoria and dragon boat from Oriental Bay.

The 7 Day Challenge ended with a celebration and medal ceremony.

“I was stoked with my sub-20-minute sprint to the top of Mt Victoria,” says Neelusha.

Paralympic gold medalist Mary Fisher was a surprise guest at the event.

For their last surprise, the challengers were taken to the airport in hot rods by members of the Capital Rodders hot rod club.

Jo’s advice to others is to grab such opportunities with both hands, even if they have doubts about their abilities.

“Just get up off the couch and get out there. There’s absolutely nothing like the feeling of achievement when you have given your all.”

Kay Clark with her white cane

When Kay lost her sight in her right eye in 2012, she was told she had Retinitis Pigmentosa. She struggled to accept how it was going to affect her independence, not knowing how to get on with life as normal.

In late 2014 Kay reached out to the Blind Foundation and she started receiving regular white cane lessons in her Carterton home. “I was hesitant at first. I felt like I didn’t want or need a white cane, but the Blind Foundation staff encouraged me to use one regardless.”

Kay began looking into how canes help others by watching videos of others learning to use them. “When I watched them, especially the young people, I thought, “I could do that too”.”

Working with Blind Foundation Rehabilitation Instructor, David Lewis, they started out with simple tasks like how to hold the cane.

“We then started to take walks in my area and progressed to crossing the road.”

In 2015 Kay began working with Blind Foundation Rehabilitation Instructor, Anna Bishop. Her cane lessons progressed to catching the bus to Masterton and taking walks around the town centre.

“At first Anna caught the bus with me and helped me find the best place to sit. Now I catch the bus and meet her there.”

For Kay, the biggest challenge has been accepting her cane as a positive addition to her life.

“At first it was difficult meeting people and explaining it to them. The white cane draws attention, especially when you see friends and other people you know, who knew you before sight loss.”

To help her come to terms with the major changes in her life Gary Veenstra, Blind Foundation Child and Social Worker/Counsellor, encouraged her to begin writing a journal. Her writing soon developed into poems.

“Writing has been therapeutic for me, it has helped me accept my cane as a friend, rather than an enemy,” says Kay.

Anna says she is also proud of Kay’s progress and different attitude towards her cane.

“Kay is so positive about her cane now and has worked hard on her mobility. It has been a pleasure to watch her get more and more confident with her cane,” says Anna.

My “Friend”

I have a new “friend.” She is rather thin and very white, with a touch of black and red highlight.

Some days she is very shy, and likes to stay inside and hide.

On good days I take my “friend” on walks, the only problem is she never talks.

My “friend” helps me cross the road, but cannot help with the heavy load.

There are days when I go out on my own, and my new friend stays at home alone.

She hasn’t met all my family yet, but I am sure they will treat her with respect.

I hope my new “friend” will stay awhile, and maybe one day we will walk down the street.

Together with a smile!

Cricket players at the sport festival

Blind and low vision clients competed at the third annual Bay of Plenty Blind Sports Festival in Mount Maunganui.

The event, held on 15-16 October, had blind football, blind cricket and blind lawn bowls on offer. This was an opportunity for attendees to have a go at the games, receive assistance in coaching skills and advancing game awareness.

All sessions were well attended, with the trial of blind football proving a crowd favourite. Lawn bowls also had a great turn-out. With opportunities to advance to a high level, this is a good sport for beginners.

Suited for advanced players, the 20/20 game of blind cricket had only 14 runs separating the two teams in the end.

Jenny Kirk, Recreation and Volunteer Coordinator at the Blind Foundation, says it was a great event to encourage clients from across the country to attend. The facilities are top class and the hospitality brilliant.

“The festival just proves that blind and low vision people can still be active and involved in sport with minimal adaptions. It is a great example of living a life without limits.”

Another part of the festival was a dining in the dark function. Attracting strong community support, 96 guests enjoyed a fabulous night with great food and a quiz competition.

Thank you to the Bay of Plenty Blind Sports Club for organising the festival and providing people with new sport opportunities. With another successful year, this is one to mark in your diaries for 2017.

Clients explore artwork

Blind and low vision locals in Nelson enjoyed an audio description of artwork at the Light Nelson Festival in September.

Set to brighten up winter, the festival featured an outdoor gallery of brilliant light installations and collaborations of art, science and technology. Over 40 artists let their creativity loose through a range of innovative media. This included laser technology, digital imagery, performance and music with high levels of interaction and surprise for the viewer.

Several artists loaned elements of their artwork so that people could also touch the creations during the audio description.

Amanda Stevens says the event was a great opportunity for clients to participate in arts and culture.

“For those with some vision, to be able to see the photographs by learning the science behind them, audio description and by touch was fantastic.

Erin Eyles, Recreation and Community Advisor, organised this event with support of Blind Citizens NZ (Nelson branch). She says she is looking forward to making these opportunities happen more regularly.

“The event has started an interesting dialogue between the festival collective and our clients for future festivals. This brings great value to the training our audio describer group received last year. Opportunities like this small event give practice and exposure to our clients on what audio description is all about.

“This has built new connections and started conversations between the arts community and our clients, to further explore concepts and accessibility.”

Thanks to the Light Nelson collective, our volunteers, audio describer and Blind Citizens NZ (Nelson branch) for coming together to help make this happen.

Group photo at the ski day out

On an early winter’s morning, Blind Foundation clients, staff, volunteers and a team from Canterbury Disabled Snowsports (CDS) set off for the slopes of Mount Hutt, Christchurch. Packed in a minivan, the group left the Blind Foundation office and spent the two-hour journey to the mountain getting to know each other.

The team was given special code names such as Captain Fantastic, Mr X and Catwoman on arrival. Everyone had an orientation of the ski base and learned the basics before heading off on the beginners’ slopes.

It was Blind Foundation client Fiona Kennedy’s first time skiing. She says she enjoyed it so much she can’t wait to be going again next winter.

“It was an amazing day. The staff were fantastic and supportive. We were paired with guides who were attached to our skis with reins so they could take control when needed.

“We all had a few falls, but got the hang of it in the end. I encourage anyone to give it a go; it’s not as scary as you think.”

Being back on skis for the first time since losing his sight was liberating for David Wilson.

“Last time I went skiing I could see. So this time was more challenging. I had a guide with me to keep me in control but I went solo on the last three goes. It sure was a thrill!

“The instructors were fantastic, they had plenty of experience working with people with disabilities, and they were caring, patient and made it easy for us. Erin from the Blind Foundation was also great. She made sure we were all safe and gave us all the information beforehand, so there were no surprises. It built my confidence knowing what was going to happen.”

“The event was an ideal opportunity for clients to have a go at skiing, and experience an alpine ski resort, in a supported team environment. There are a few from the group who have shown interest in joining CDS next season for regular supported skiing lessons,” says Erin.

Image of the Blind Foundation logo

Date: Saturday 12 November 2016
Time: 10:00am
Location:  Blind Foundation Napier Office, 65 Thackaray Street, Napier 4110

The business of the meeting is to

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

    Member participation

    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 the Blind Foundation’s offices in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington that will link to the AGM via telephone.

2.   Alternatively you may participate by telephone. These ‘spaces’ are limited so you need to book in advance.

RSVP

To assist us with catering please contact Jane Moore by Wednesday 2 November 2016 if you are planning to attend the AGM, one of the associated linked meetings, or participate by telephone.

Also, if you intend to ask a question at the meeting that could be more fully answered with some background research, we encourage you to let Jane know.

Jane Moore can be contacted on:
Email: jamoore@blindfoundation.org.nz
Phone: (09) 355 6894 or 0800 24 33 33
Fax: (09) 366 0099
Mail: Board Secretary, RNZFB, Private Bag 99941, Newmarket, Auckland 1149.

Kayakers on Lake Taupo

Registrations for the 2017 Taupo Summer Camp are now open.

The Taupo Summer Camp offers up to 25 children from all over the North Island a chance to try new activities and make some lasting friendships.

Blind Foundation staff that specialise in child development, recreation activities and social development will be making sure everyone has the best time possible. Volunteers that were once children on camp themselves act as role models ensuring everything runs smoothly.

Who can attend?

Blind Foundation clients aged 8 – 14 that are independent in self-care and mobility. Children must be able to follow verbal instructions and add to social situations.

What can you expect?

Children will be staying in small cabin style bunk rooms with five or six others. Daily activities could include abseiling, kayaking, rock wall climbing, zorbing, waterslide, evening performances, excursions to some of Taupo’s attractions and plenty of good food at meal times. If you have a musical instrument or a talent then please bring this along.

How much does it cost?

$200 or 3 days ‘Carer Support’ – If using carer support, please return a signed but not dated form.

Where is it?

Mi Camp is located at the end of Rawhira Road in Mission Bay, just off SH1. 10 minutes north of Turangi and 30 minutes south of Taupo.

Transport

Staff will likely be able to assist with transport from most locations; this will be arranged once accepted onto programme.

So how do I apply?

Please download and complete this registration form and return it and medication(if applicable) forms by 1st November to Recreation and Community Advisor – Jo Hagele jhagele@blindfoundation.org.nz or post – PO box 27177, Marion Square, Wellington, 6141

Please note.

Late registrations will not be considered.
Payment will be required upon acceptance of position.
Numbers are limited and there is a selection process meaning not everyone who applies is guaranteed selection.