Black Labrador wrapped in All Blacks flag

I hope you’re all able to stay awake this week after watching the All Blacks and Emirates Team NZ victories. I’m such a supporter I wear the team colours all the time, when I’m not wearing my red coat of course. I’ve definitely needed some extra naps after the early mornings.  Luckily my days at Awhina House are pretty relaxed and I’m able to fit some in.

I’ve had another assessment walk which went well. I’m not perfect yet, especially around other dogs, but I’m improving all the time. It takes a lot of practice to become a guide dog but it’s all worth it in the end. As you know I’m already so proud to wear my red coat, I can’t wait to put on a proper harness.

My recall is getting better too, especially when my puppy walker and I play hide and seek at the park. Sometimes I forget I need to watch her as much as she watches me but after a reminder, (and some treats, of course) I make sure I don’t let her out of my sight.

Have a good week everyone!

Brooke in a hoodie

I’ve had a great week and I hope you have too.

My Puppy Walker and I were walking through the park the other day, and I found out our neighbourhood has its own dog club! I’m absolutely stoked. I’ve already made great friends, in particular a husky cross called Cody. He can run much faster than me, but that doesn’t mean I don’t try and catch him. I might have smaller legs, but I have twice the energy. Cody’s teaching me some really good habits when I free run. His recall is amazing and I’m trying to copy him but I still get distracted sometimes. I know I can’t see my friends every day because I don’t get to free run much when I go to kennels for formal training, but it’s great to socialise. It’s my new highlight of the week.

With Red Puppy Bikkie Day coming up, my calendar is booking up fast. I’ve been helping ACG Parnell College, next to Awhina House, fundraise this week. I definitely enjoyed myself, I even got to meet another guide dog puppy. I love fundraising for such an important cause, and of course I don’t complain about all the pats I get.

Until next week!

Image shows the Blind Rugby logo

We are excited to announce that the Blind Foundation is the proud sponsor of the international launch of Blind Rugby in New Zealand.

Blind Rugby makes New Zealand’s national sport accessible to the blind and low vision community through an adapted seven-a-side format of the sport.

The Change Foundation (United Kingdom) and Blind Sport New Zealand will officially launch the sport in Auckland this July, with support from the Blind Foundation.

This is another example of us working with local and international partners to provide even more opportunities for our clients to live a life without limits.

International launch events are set to include the world’s first Blind Rugby International Test Match fixture on Thursday 6 July at QBE Stadium on Auckland’s North Shore.  This match will be between the Blind Lions and the New Zealand Blind Rugby national team.

The 6 July test match will kick-off at 1.40pm and is game one in a three fixture test series between the two teams.

For more information on the international launch of Blind Rugby and the Blind Lions vs. NZ Blind Rugby team world’s first Blind Rugby International Test Series, contact Blind Sport New Zealand National Manager Dan Shepherd at dan@blindsport.kiwi.

Image shows the Meadow Fresh Milk 4 Good logo.

Milk 4 Good

Meadow Fresh is running a Milk 4 Good fundraiser, and we’re proud to be one of the four charities selected to take part. Meadow Fresh will travel around Auckland in a milk truck and give away one litre bottles of milk in exchange for a gold coin donation. The donations will go to one of four charities, which includes the Blind Foundation Guide Dogs.

The first Milk 4 Good event is this Saturday, 24 June. We also have a designated event on Sunday, 9 July at Glenfield Market, when all of the donations will go to Guide Dogs.

Find out when the Milk 4 Good truck will be in your neighbourhood and swap a gold coin for a bottle of milk. Keep an eye on the Meadow Fresh Facebook page and Meadow Fresh website for the latest good news on dates, locations and fundraising totals.

Image shows a group of people holding up funding totals for 'Good in the Hood'.Good in the Hood – Z Energy’s Fundraising Update

Jude Henderson and Israel Coello represented the Blind Foundation at the Z Tamatea station on Friday, 16 June. They received a cheque for $3,152 – an accumulation of contributions from Z Tamatea (Napier), Z Gisborne and Z Windsor (Hastings). We send a huge thank you to all that voted for us with their Good in the Hood tokens.

Image shows Julie Woods with some braille biscuits.

Dunedin artist and motivational speaker Julie Woods, aka That Blind Woman, will join Richard Benge, Executive Director, Arts Access Aotearoa in Parliament on Tuesday, 4 July to present the Arts Access Awards 2017.

“It’s essential that disabled people can work, be seen, heard and valued the same as anybody if we want to live in an inclusive society,” Richard says. “I’m delighted to present the Arts Access Awards with Julie, who is blind. Julie’s script will be in braille and we’ll have some rehearsals beforehand to make sure our cues are correct.

“Last year’s awards highlighted the deaf community and New Zealand Sign Language. This year, we’re acknowledging the contribution of people in the blindness community.”

Julie is an enthusiastic advocate of people having access to the arts. As an ambassador for the Blind Foundation and a founding member of Arts Access Aotearoa’s Art for All Otago Network, she works with regional institutions to improve access to arts and culture for disabled people.

“Art is a powerful way to have a voice,” Julie says. “It’s vital that we ensure everyone has access to resources so they can enjoy and create it.”

Determined not to let her blindness get in her way, Julie has a daunting list of achievements. She has published an autobiographical self-help book, How to Make A Silver Lining; walked nine half-marathons; visited 50 countries in 50 years; and refereed three naked rugby games.

In 2013, her show 50 Shades of Braille featured in the Dunedin Fringe. It used an edible braille montage to spell out a sentence from the novel 50 Shades of Grey to demystify the sexuality of blind people.

In addition to art, travel and writing, Julie also holds demonstrations of her “Cooking Without Looking” skills for dieticians, business associations and peer support organisations.

In keeping with this year’s focus on the blindness community, a finalist in the Arts Access Artistic Achievement Award, Mark Wilson, will entertain guests during the reception in the Grand Hall of Parliament.

Mark Wilson, a singer, composer and pianist from Queenstown, is blind. He learned to play the piano as a child by ear in the supportive musical environment of Homai College. A friend later persuaded him to apply to The University of Auckland to study performance, where he became the first braille reading musician to gain a Performance BA (Mus) degree in classical music.

Today, Mark performs in Central Otago, playing a wide variety of genres.  He is an organist for the local church and has published a book of original hymns. He plays jazz and popular music with many local bands, and has performed at jazz festivals up and down the country. He calls his unique solo style “jazzical”, which is a blend of classical music with creative and innovative jazz solos.

Image shows Yul Ri Jung with a guide dog.

This month we get to know Yul Ri Jung, known as Yulie, our National Administration Volunteer who manages to find time in her busy study life to volunteer at the Blind Foundation. Yulie studies Psychology and Computer Science at the University of Auckland.

Yulie assists the Volunteer Services Advisor to on-board volunteers from different parts of the country. Yulie’s enthusiasm competes closely with her organisational skills and attention to detail. She volunteers from Awhina House and her work is felt all across the country as she manages the database and the welcome packs that go out to new volunteers.

Yulie has worked at the Blind Foundation for almost a year. A typical week for Yulie includes data entry, making welcome packs, working with the National Admin team to source brochures, sending out packs and making sure Sue Vyas remains on top of her volunteer on-boarding.

Yulie packs in a lot of punch and likes that “I am being of help to you and other people. And just experiencing office life is cool, and I feel responsible for quickly and accurately processing volunteer information so the volunteer system runs smoothly. This is important as the Blind Foundation is volunteer-dependent in many areas, and I feel happy that I am helping to make that happen.”

A particular work highlight for Yulie was her first meeting with a guide dog and taking a picture with him. She said: “It was the first time I saw a guide dog in real life and heard about how they are brought up and trained. It is impressive how they are friendly but reliable which they need to be.”

Yulie is from Korea and moved to New Zealand during high school. Her parents are still in Korea and she visits them once a year. Yulie also has a brother who is studying dentistry in Australia. Her hobbies include reading, playing video games and watching cute dog videos. Yulie’s favourite film is Schindler’s List. She says: “It’s horrifying what humans are capable of doing to others, but it was a heart-warming movie at the same time.”

The most adventurous and brave thing Yulie has done is travel to Africa by herself four years ago. One day she woke up feeling adventurous and booked a flight to Nairobi, where she travelled and did volunteer work for three months.

Image shows Helen Keller

This year we will not be holding the usual Helen Keller celebrations around the country. Instead, we are having a special day and evening on Saturday 24 June celebrating Helen Keller’s birthday and life’s adventures at our deafblind camp, outside Wellington.

Our approach during the day will be to discuss snippets of Helen Keller’s life and the travels and journeys she made. Our deafblind camp gathering will make a train ride into Wellington City and ride on the Cable car and visit museums. This will be connected to the vast travelling and voyages Helen Keller achieved over her life time.

In the evening we have three speakers, Dave Wilson who is chairman of Deafblind Association New Zealand (DBA) and will talk about his dual sensory loss and reflect on Helen Keller’s strength and coping strategies. Phil Thorn (Bind Foundation client) will give a motivational speech and presentation on how he manages his day-to-day living. Then Lloyd Ellison will finish with a story of Helen Keller. There will be a feast and then we will cut and share a cake dedicated to this remarkable lady.

It will be a time for the New Zealand deafblind community to be together and share their stories. They will have the opportunity to meet new people and understand that they share a similar dual loss disability. However, that is where the similarity ends as they are as different in other ways just as you and I. After the celebrations we will all sit down and do our best to focus on the All Blacks thrashing the British and Irish Lions.

2016's 7 Day Challenge team on the Wellington waterfront.

The 7 Day Challenge is back for 2017, and will be running from 1 to 7 November.

Applications for 2017 are now open, and we’re looking for Blind Foundation clients to take part- as well as people to take on supporting roles.

We’re looking for a mix of ages, genders, abilities and vision levels. You’ll need to have some previous experience in outdoor activities with a group, and be reasonably physically fit.

Activities will include tramping Tongariro, running, cycling, and rafting/kayaking.

If you’d like to apply to participate, visit the 7 Day Challenge website for more information and to apply.

We would like to invite Blind Foundation clients to apply to become a Peer Mentor.

The Blind Foundation Peer Mentoring Programme is being offered in three locations Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch

The purpose of the Peer Mentoring programme is for those who have a lived experience of low vision or blindness to share their experiences and skills with others. Mentors and mentees would meet on a regular basis and work together on goals set by the mentee. Mentoring relationships could be focused on any number of areas relating to personal growth and development. From accepting the need to use a cane, negotiating the work place or hosting a dinner party.

As a Blind Foundation client do you:

  • Have skills and experience that you would like to share with others?
  • Consider yourself to be someone who is motivated, empathetic and self-aware?
  • Enjoy getting the best out of other people?
  • Have time to commit to training and supervision?

We would like to hear from you.

Mentors will be selected through an application process, training programme and matching process. Please register your interest by emailing the contact person below.

Mentoring Programme Venue and Dates:

Auckland: Friday September 8th – Sunday September 10th (residential), contact Kelly O’Donnell  by emailing kodonnell@blindfoundation.org.nz or phone 0800 24 33 33 before 31st July 2017.

Wellington:  Friday September 22nd (evening) Saturday 23rd, Sunday 24th September contact Felicity Hutcheson by emailing fhutcheson@blindfoundation.org.nz or phone 04 380 2145 before 31st July 2017.

Christchurch:  August 18th-20th (Fri evening to Sunday)contact Heather McGill by emailing hmcgill@blindfoundation.org.nz or phone 03 375 4327 before July 7th 2017.

Black labrador in a red blanket

I hope you all had a relaxing long weekend, I know I didn’t!

My time at kennels was absolutely pawsome. I spent the whole week playing with my siblings. Although I’m well behaved when I’m working, I’m full of energy when it comes to playtime. I’ll keep playing long after my friends are tired out, there’s no stopping this pup.

After a full week of playing, with a few work breaks, of course, I’m exhausted. I was happy to see my walker and the family, but being away meant I missed a lot of naps and I can’t fall behind on that important business. I even put myself to bed well before my usual bedtime and had a big sleep in the next day. I don’t even need a big walk when I’m at work, and my walker isn’t complaining. She’s more than happy to have a personal heater for her feet. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, it’s a tough life being a puppy.

I’ve mastered the ‘on your bed’ command at work, but I’m still learning the command at home. I get a bit confused when my walker is telling me to go somewhere away from her instead of towards her. I’m sure I’ll get it with some more practice.

I’ll let you know how I get on next week, I’m already overdue for another nap.