[Press Release] The Month of May is observed as Blindness Awareness Month.
The month calls attention to issues affecting blind and visually impaired person, the opportunities available including the various ways in which the society can advocate on behalf of the blind and visually impaired.
The St. Lucia Blind Welfare Association continues to advocate for more employment opportunities to be afforded the blind and visually impaired persons in St. Lucia. The Oasis Spa at Body Holiday Resort embraced the opportunity to have two blind and one low vision massage therapist in their employ. Meet Etta Mertelly and Stacia Jules. Etta is a Massage Therapist with a condition called Macular Degeneration.
“At the age of 18/19 my eyes started degenerating to a point where I wouldn’t see. It got fuzzy, it just affected me on the whole especially when I was going up the Morne, it affected my work. My A’ went down to B’s, went down to C’s because it was a little difficult for me to see.”
Stacia however if completely blind form childhood. She has been employed with Body Holiday Resort formally Le Sport for the past eleven years.
“I am very happy to have a job here. I am very grateful that they had the confidence to employ me as a blind person. They did not know what to expect but they still took a chance. So I am happy with that.”
Enacted since 1972 the St. Lucia Blind Welfare Association (SLBWA) is mandated to provide education and training, job placement and social services for blind and visually impaired persons. Executive Director of the SLBWA, Anthony Avril is hopeful that many more employers will provide opportunities to the blind and visually impaired segment of the population.
“I really would like to encourage other employers to emulate the example of Le Sport by providing opportunities for persons affected by blindness and vision impairment to be gainfully employed.”
Human Resource Manager at Body Holiday, Alison Chitolie, said management of the resort believes in creating opportunities for anyone from any walk of life.
“We love to employ the team members like Georgia, especially Georgia. Georgia is excellent. She performed a treatment for Darren Sammy and he actually put her on his facebook page. He found her extremely patient and she is just as talented as the team members who can see. It’s not a matter about being visually impaired. It’s a matter of the trade that you do and what you try to get done. So regardless of whether you can see or not anybody can do anything I think it’s possible.”
Etta and Stacia are both grateful for the SLBWA’s efforts in securing employment for them.
Etta said, “Without the Blind Welfare a lot of persons in St. Lucia would suffer. There are persons who are visually impaired or blind or even have problems with their eyes and they don’t even know. They suffer with headaches or migraines and don’t even know that’s what they have and by going to the Blind Welfare you find out what’s wrong with you. You end up getting your glasses at a reasonable rate without suffering.”
Stacia added, “I think they are very instrumental in helping blind persons to actually live a better quality of life with the services that they offer.”
The HR Manager believes more can and should be done to support the blind and visually impaired in St. Lucia.
“I think companies can go out and do that. I think it’s a good thing. You do not want to alienate the team members or the people who are visually impaired. I think we have to put them into society like everybody else. They have to make a living, they have families and they’re just like one of us. So I think we should encourage everybody to participate and donate as much as money as they can to make the blind welfare get back to where it was.”
A special telethon has been organized by MBC Television and Real FM on Friday May 18th to raise much need funds while creating awareness of the invaluable efforts of the SLBWA.