Blind World Magazine

Sierra Leone.
Blind Victims poised for self empowerment.

January 25, 2006.
Awareness Times - Freetown,Sierra Leone.

Blind victims in Sierra Leone have intimated Awareness Times about how determined they are to undertake self reliance initiatives that will present them as useful citizens in the socio-economic development and as well impact positively on their lives.

As a way of moving this all important ambition from a mere wishful thinking to reality, a group of young and dynamic blind graduates, two years ago, thought it fit to form an organization called ‘Vision For The Blind’.

The main objectives of this non profitable voluntary organization include; to restore the hope and confidence of newly blind victims (those who became blind in their late teens or adult hood), to sensitize the public on how to accept and appreciate blind people within their communities, to lobby decision and policy makers for positive reforms on disability issues especially blindness, to erudite the notion of street begging among blind victims and finally, to reduce the level of illiteracy among blind people.

The overriding goal of these objectives is to let the society understand and appreciate the fact that disability is not inability, and that disabled people can deliver tremendously if given the opportunity.

In an interview with Awareness Times newspaper, the Executive Director of Vision for the blind, Mr. Jonathan Conteh, disclosed that he and four other blind colleagues were motivated to form this organization in view of the turbulence they went through during the course of their university education.

"Going back to the community, we discovered that the difficulties and hard ways of life other less fortunate blind people were going through is not only insurmountable, but also unbearable and unbelievable," Mr. Conteh remarked, adding, "This was what particularly motivated us as much more fortunate blind victims to establish a kind of platform through which key issues affecting blind people across the country could be brought under the spotlight and possible solutions found to address them," Jonathan stated.

Mr. Conteh went on to explain some of the achievements scored by the association since its inception.

Among these achievements, Mr. Conteh noted, are, the establishment of a six-room flat office space in the northern provincial headquarter town of Makeni (which is hosting the highest number of blind people in the country) and the restoration of hope and confidence among blind victims for having a forum through which their views and concerns can be channeled.

He also noted that with a view to convince their blind colleagues to move out of the street into being self reliant, Jonathan maintained that a number of them have been enrolled into a skills training scheme and at the same time catering for their welfare within their limited resources.

According to him, the organization is also assisting blind children in their educational pursuits in several institutions across the country. "We are able to achieve this by way of scouting for scholarships and typing aids from humanitarian organizations," he said.

The organization he said is currently sponsoring blind children at the Milton Margai College of Education and Technology.

A number of projects geared towards the self development of blind victims he said, are underway in many parts of the country.

He explained that the organization is yet to have a permanent source of funding, but however added that they are currently partnering with a U.K. based organization called "Powerful Information" which he stressed has been useful to their organization.

He thanked the principal of the Milton Margai School for the Blind, Mr. Sam Campbell, whose fatherly advice and mentoring he noted, had been a real source of inspiration.

Mr. Jonathan Conteh further called on philanthropic and religious organizations in and out of the country to come to the rescue of blind people in Sierra Leone. According to Mr. Conteh, assisting the blind to attain self reliance is integral to the alleviation of poverty in the country.

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