The League of Friends of the Blind turns 90!
A now 90 year old beacon of hope for the blind and visually impaired community, in and around Cape Town, continues to stand strong in fulfilling its mission to provide a wide range of empowerment, educational, employment, and development services to children, the youth, and elderly persons who are born blind or come into visual impairment through various medical conditions and increasingly trauma related blindness.
The League of Friends of the Blind (LOFOB) is a registered non-government organisation established in 1933 and located in Grassy Park, Western Cape. Over the years, the organisation has established an array of services that respond to, support, and assist its beneficiaries and their families to integrate successfully into society. These include home management training with home environment assimilation to assist the beneficiaries to become independent around the homes and communities, as well as lodging for those who are indigent for a minimal fee.
Services for children, birth to 18 years, caters for no cost infant stimulation programmes, pre-school centre that offers orientation and mobility training, play therapy, early learning and academics, occupational therapy, assistive devices, introduction to braille and computers, help with transitioning into mainstream and further school programmes; as well as a parent support group within a registered ECD facility.
Youth and adults are also supported at LOFOB through an on-boarding rehabilitation and orientation process that assesses their mobility, introduces them to braille, offers counselling for psycho-social adjustment, information technology training programmes including Job Access with Speech (JAWS), Non-Visual Desktop Access (NVDA) and other talk back applications. LOFOB further places them in educational and skills programmes that prepare beneficiaries for further training and employment opportunities, including education on disability rights and responsibilities, reasonable accommodations in the workplace, referrals or references. Recently introduced, LOFOB’s Academy offers an accredited National Diploma in Orientation and Mobility Practices and 6 students are currently enrolled in Cape Town, 6 others in Mqanduli in the Eastern Cape; while 4 students are enrolled to complete their Senior Certificate exams in June 2023.
“We would not be a 90 year old organisation without the tremendous and ongoing support of the many friends we have made along the way, as suggested in the name of our organisation, The League of Friends of the Blind. Our organisation is now at its strongest, despite the many challenges faced over the years. Of course, the needs are ongoing as we are an organisation that does not turn anyone away and we endeavour for all beneficiaries to realise their full potential. We offer holistic a centre, home and community based programmes. Through funding and networks with other like-minded organisations, we are able to provide quality services and run outreach programmes,” says Mrs Benita Petersen, Manager at LOFOB.
The National Development Agency (NDA) is one of the friends, who in the last year supported the ECD programme for 70 children, through the provision of special needs and multi-sensory indoor and outdoor equipment to prepare them for optimal development, independent living and schooling; rural outreach support; as well as providing 5 youth with an NQF level 5 training to the value of R224 814, 89. Children between 3 and 6 years attend the ECD centre daily and are transported at no cost from and to their homes. Children between birth and 3 years receive mostly home-based services.
“LOFOB is an organisation that targets the most vulnerable persons in our communities, often experiencing stigmatisation and exclusion. It is the mandate of the NDA to ensure that through civil society organisations, like LOFOB, developmental programmes and services are available for these persons within their communities. The funding granted is therefore in line with our mandate and really addresses other social related requirements such as other disability grants offered by the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and support services from the Department of Social Development (DSD) including subsidies of other operations, our residential facility and several welfare programmes. This funding is a demonstration of the holistic DSD portfolio offering’’ says Mr Ardiel Soeker, NDA Western Cape Provincial Manager. Other friend organisations that have assisted LOFOB include Petro SA, Apex Hi, HCI Foundation and Business Connexion, amongst others.
Mr Heinrich Maree (48), who became partially blind 3 years ago, with a sight that comes and goes, has recently started the LOFOB rehabilitation programme that is assisting with the transition and gaining skills that will empower him. He has started braille training, is undergoing therapeutic counselling to assist him to adapt; and partakes in the sports programme to allow for wellness and social exposure. He found out about LOFOB on the radio, while other beneficiaries are referred through hospitals and word of mouth.
Xolani Feni (35) from Colesburg, lost his sight in 2010, and although he had dropped out of school and it took him a long time to accept his blindness through a sporting injury, is now a resident and student of LOFOB studying towards completing his Senior Certificate. His dream is to become a Legal Practitioner that will assist other persons with visual impairments. “There is safety and comfort in receiving services from like-minded and well-versed persons in our situation. I would like to contribute to the healing of others as I have found healing in others too. I am grateful for LOFOB services, it has truly changed my life – I didn't even know that counselling can heal me, I now have a drive to succeed and reach all my goals and dreams, because I can”, says Feni.
The organisation employs 17 full-time staff members with some active volunteers that run the programmes, including outreach where the organisation mobilises communities to create an awareness of its services as well as finding persons who are in need of services and support. These outreach programmes are conducted throughout the Western Cape. An Executive Committee is responsible for governance and oversight of LOFOB.
LOFOB encourages sporting and socialising amongst the blind and visually impaired community through cricket, futsal, games, excursions, field trips as well as music and cultural experiences. LOFOB services are ongoing and accessible through walk-ins, referrals and office and social platforms.
“We truly are dedicated to making LOFOB a safe haven, a home away from home and a place where our beneficiaries can thrive and reach their full potential. As an organisation, we are in constant need of support for assistive devices including long white canes, and adaptive technology; operations and programme funding; and volunteers. We call upon those who can offer financial and non-financial help to reach out to us,” concludes Petersen.
ISSUED BY NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT AGENCY
Contact: Lesego Ranchu on email@example.com or 073 547 280 or Benita Petersen on firstname.lastname@example.org or 082 379 9292.