All posts by Jessica Salamonsz

Image of the Blind Foundation logo

The Blind Foundation is seeking interest from clients to participate in a business planning day with the Board, Consumer Groups and the Blind Foundation Leadership Team on Saturday 11 February 2017. The purpose of the day is to help the Blind Foundation determine the high level priorities and themes that will form the FY18 business plan.

We are looking for a range of interests and perspectives and will contact the successful clients in the New Year after expressions of interest have closed.

If this is something that interests you please email Marjorie Hawkings on by Monday 16 January 2017.

Photo of Carol Conte

International Volunteer Day on 5 December is a great reason to celebrate and recognise volunteers around the world for the invaluable work they do.

From being a driver, fundraiser, to reading a book to someone, Blind Foundation volunteers make a huge difference to those who are blind or have low vision.

We share an entry below from one of our volunteers, Carol Conte, who celebrates 25 years of service this year:

“In February 1991, I approached the Blind Foundation to ask if I could become a volunteer reader. Later that year, I received my first assignment.

It has been my only one ever since and it has had a very positive impact on my life. I was also beginning my journey as a primary school teacher, and later on, also took on a part-time position as a stylist with Trelise Cooper.

My journey of 25 years has been a treasure-chest of sharing, learning, laughing and strengthening through times of sadness.

The best of the person I read to, has brought out the best in me. I have delved into the intricacies of politics, history, poetry and travel. I have been stumped trying to pronounce French, German and occasionally, English! We are yin and yang, stopping, starting, repeating or bursting out laughing at something I have read (or read incorrectly).

His wife calls me his Thursday girl. I love that! I have such respect for him. Never have I heard him complain about his lot, or the loss of his career. I am so proud of him. I am also grateful for the phone call from the Blind Foundation, asking me to take on the gift of reading to this man. This has enabled my voice to aid, inform, and enrich, a fellow New Zealander.”

Don’t forget to take a minute and acknowledge a volunteer if you meet them on 5 December!

Make a difference and sign up to volunteer.

Youth SEED participants taking out their raft

The Blind Foundation 2016 youth SEED leadership programme opens up a world of opportunity for aspiring leaders.

Success, empowerment, expertise and development (SEED) are at the very heart of this three-day youth leadership programme. 11 youth aged between 17 to 25, from across the country, came to Auckland to attend the programme from 3 to 5 October.

The programme involved a series of leadership workshops. Attendees explored   areas such as self-awareness, self-care, comfort zones, courageous conversations, leadership in Maori culture and team dynamics.

It wasn’t just theory though, participants put their learnings into practice out and about. They set personal challenges with team initiatives and took on a high ropes course.

There was even an opportunity to meet some key youth within the Blind Foundation. The group learnt about their journeys, as well as the Blind Foundation’s recently launched youth strategy.

On day three, there were no thoughts of heading home as there was a rafting challenge to complete. Again, an opportunity to put into practice and develop skills they had been learning.  The group got to use their skills in resilience, influencing change, solution focused problem-solving and team-work. Heading out to Okahu Bay, the group built a raft and put their handy work to the test on the ocean.

After getting back from the adventures on the water, they had one final task to tackle, planning for their futures, the group brainstormed ways to influence and lead in their communities. There were some robust conversations and they set real challenges for themselves, and the Blind Foundation, to further progress the youth strategy. The session was rounded off with time to reflect on the previous three days.

Heather McGill, Recreation and Community Practice Leader, helped facilitate the programme and says she is proud of everyone’s achievements.

“They did themselves and their peers proud by pushing personal limits and working together as a team.”

Now back from the programme, each participant will develop a community project to reach other youth in their local blind community. The participants will receive support from coaches on their projects.

Image of Attitude Trust logo

We are delighted to announce that five Blind Foundation clients are finalists in the People’s Choice Awards category of the Attitude Awards.

Clients up for the award are:

  • Ese Aumalesulu.
  • Steff Green.
  • Genevieve McLachlan.
  • Eilish Wilkes.

Watch their promo videos now and vote for your favourite finalist. The winner will be announced at the Attitude Awards gala dinner on Tuesday 29 November in Auckland.

South Otago walking group

The lower South Island has been buzzing with activity, following the rise of recreation initiatives this year.

Social coffee group

2016 has seen a social coffee group start up in Alexandra with clients attending, along with keen volunteers/drivers. The group meet on the last Tuesday of the month for coffee and a catch up. Each month they decide on the café for the next catch up.

Recreation Volunteer Coordinators, Anne Marie Hope-Cross and Chris Moffitt take turns to support the group. They often bring items of interest, information and equipment that promote robust discussion and talking points at the catch ups. Everyone loves getting together and look forward to each month.

Alexandra coffee group
Group photo above  of the social coffee group in Alexandra.

South Otago walking group

The first South Otago walking group has kicked off, thanks to the generous support from surrounding communities.

The idea has been developed over a few months, but there was a challenge with regular volunteers and crucial funding needed for safety gear.

A few months ago the South Otago Community Committee applied for funding to help with the purchase of walking poles, locator beacons, first aid kits and high visibility gear to ensure the safety of the group.

After part funding for the gear was approved, the group received a generous donation of proceeds from a local quiz night run by the South Otago Town and Country Club.

Support continued to roll in with several supporters from the Balclutha community volunteering to accompany the group on regular walks.

Currently, there are five regular walkers and five volunteers. We look to increase this number as community support continues and more people hear about the group.

South Otago walking group

Pictured above: The South Island walking group before they head off on a walk

Getting creative in Dunedin

The Dunedin craft group has really taken off this year, producing moccasins, cane baskets, scarves and wheat bags.

With a collection of weaving looms available at our Dunedin branch, we were approached by the local Tairei Spinners and Weavers group. They offered us a four-week tuition session on using our weaving looms. We accepted the generous offer with pleasure and now weaving has taken over, especially for the women in the group!

Now they know how to use the looms, they are producing scarves, towels, flannels and various other items for themselves. The Tairei Spinners and Weavers have been supporting the group all year. They drop in occasionally to check up on progress, thread the looms and offer advice. The plan going forward is to showcase these crafts at the local South Dunedin market in 2017. This market is also run by one of the craft group members.

Craft group member weaving a basket
Photo of a craft group member weaving a basket.

Along with the weaving, the men in the group have been busy working away making moccasins. These are made mainly from sheepskin, with a volunteer cutting the templates out for our members to lace together with ribbon. There are three totally blind clients stitching up the moccasins and one on a loom weaving up all sorts of creations. All are producing fantastically crafted and highly practical items.

If weaving and making moccasins weren’t enough you will also find the group sewing and filling wheat bags. Making most of a large donation of wheat, the group make the bags by cutting material and sewing it together. Along with the donation of natural cane, the group is very much looking forward to 2017. The craft group can’t wait get out to the South Dunedin market and showcase their products to the general public and raise people’s awareness of the Blind Foundation and the skills our client’s possess.

Creations from the Dunedin craft group
Photo above of craft group creations.

If you are interested in any of the recreation activities mentioned above or would like more information, please visit the events section of the Blind Foundation website. Alternatively, you can contact Anne Marie Hope-Cross or Chris Moffitt by phoning 0800 24 33 33.


1. Aftershokz SPORTS M3 Wired Bone Conduction Headphones

Stuck on gifts this Christmas? Never fear, our Equipment Solutions Team has got you covered. Check out their top gift suggestions for 2016.

 1. Aftershokz SPORTS M3 wired bone conduction headphones       

1. Aftershokz SPORTS M3 Wired Bone Conduction Headphones
Product code: TR0165

Bone conduction technology delivers music through your cheekbones, ensuring your ears remain completely open to hear ambient sounds. The headphones sit comfortably in front of the ear, keeping your ears open, while delivering stereophonic sound through the listener’s cheekbones to the inner ear. A multi-functional button also allows you to control your music as well.

These headphones come with a microphone which gives fantastic clear sounding quality and great communication even in crowded and noisy environments.

Client price: $64
Public price: $86

2. Talking calendar clock

Talking calendar clock
Product code: CT2040

This attractive and simple to use talking calendar clock not only talks the time but also the date with the press of a button.

Client price: $84
Public price: $112

3. Soccer ball with bells

Photo of soccer ball with bells
Product code: RC0010

Get out in the sun this summer and kick the ball around. This size 5 soccer ball comes with double bells inside.

Client price: $39
Public price: $57

4. Chess and checker set

Photo of chess and checker set
Product code: RC0132

Wooden chess pieces are distinguished from each other by touch. The white tiles are recessed and the black pieces have a small metal spike for easy identification. Also comes with tactile checker pieces.

Client price: $95
Public price: $126

5. Large print address book

Large print address book

Product code: DL6099

Sturdy and attractive, with large print alphabet tabs for ease in finding names. Each page is designed for three entries with ample space for writing in addresses and phone numbers in large, bold letters. The front and back covers have inside pockets to hold old envelopes, stamps, etc.

Client price: $36
Public price: $40

6. Spot n line pen (Option of orange, black and/or white)

spot-n-line-pen-orange, black and white

Product codes: DL0109 (Black) DL0110 (White) DL0111 (Orange)

With the ease of a pen create 3-dimensional tactile markings. This is useful for drawing raised lines, dots and shapes either for children’s arts and crafts or as a way of distinguishing buttons on remotes etc. This product is very tactile after it dries, looks like plastic and is non-toxic.

Client price: $8
Public price: $8

7. Unisex low vision watch, white face with 12 black numbers

7. Unisex low vision watch, white face with 12 black numbers
Product code: WL6001

This unisex low vision watch with a white face has easy to read large print black numbers. It is fitted with a chrome/gold expansion band.

Client price: $61
Public price: $81

8. Unisex low vision watch, black face, 12 white numbers
8. Unisex low vision watch, black face, 12 white numbers

Product code: WL6002

This unisex low vision watch has a black face with easy to read large print white numbers.

Client price: $61
Public price: $81

9. Large chrome tactile watch, black leather strap

Large chrome tactile watch, black leather strap
Product code: WB3030

This large chrome tactile watch is fitted with a leather strap. The lid comes open at the 6 o’clock position and a tactile mark indicates 12 o’clock, two dots indicate 3, 6 and 9 o’clock and one dot the hours in-between.

Client price: $55
Public price: $110

10. Braille and low vision scrabble

10. Braille and low vision scrabble
Product code: RC0137

Each of the letter tiles has braille, as well as clear print labelling. The playing board has tactile dots on the premium letter squares and tactile dashes on the premium word squares. The clever tile-lock design means that the letter tiles sit snugly on the board, even when rotating on to the next player using the built-in stand.

Client price: $98
Public price: $169


Photo of guide dog puppies playing with Christmas tinsel

All Blind Foundation offices will close for business at midday on Friday 23 December, 2016 and will reopen at 8.30am on Monday 16 January, 2017.

The last day of normal service for the library will be Thursday 22 December and service will begin again on Monday 9 January. BookLink will still be available throughout the shut-down period. The magazine studio will be closed during the Christmas break, with the last magazines being recorded on 20 December. A reduced service will start on 9 January, with full service resuming in February.

Auckland Transport (AT) logo

One of the biggest changes in Auckland’s bus and train operations swung into action in South Auckland on Sunday 30 October with the launch of the New Network.

The Southern New Network is a simpler, more integrated network that will completely change the way people travel.

There are 39 new bus routes across South Auckland, Pukekohe and Waiuku.

“A change of this scale has not been seen in Auckland before,” says Auckland Transport Group Manager AT Metro Operations, Brendon Main.

“It has been a massive effort. Along with new bus routes and bus timetables, there are two new bus companies operating in the south.”

“While we are anticipating that everything will run smoothly in the next few days, we do expect there will be some teething problems and customers will need extra care.

“It will take time for customers to familiarise themselves with their new journeys. We are asking for their patience, to plan ahead and give themselves enough time to make their journeys,” said Mr Main.

A key feature of the changes is the introduction of three frequent bus routes which also made their first journeys today. These buses will operate on key routes at least every 15 minutes, 7am to 7pm, 7 days a week.

“This is a first for South Auckland. It has never had this level of service on these routes, especially on the weekends. Across the region there will be a more consistent pattern of frequency through the day and in the weekends, benefits that will please our customers” says Mr Main.

“We have been working towards this for some time now. Informing customers, working with the bus companies, having our staff on the street and our call centre ready to answer queries.

AT ambassadors and staff are at key bus stops and interchanges helping people with their new journeys.

Informing customers of the changes and getting them ready for day one, has meant a busy few months for Auckland Transport. The public campaign included delivering the information pack and bus timetables to 119,000 letterboxes, 20 information events helping customers plan their journeys and posters at about 500 bus stops reaching 93 per cent of passenger boardings.

Implementation of the New Network for other areas of Auckland will follow in phases.

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!