For people who are blind, the situation is extremely challenging with many not being able to attend school due to a lack of support services, trained teachers, equipment and a persistent but unfounded belief that people with disability in general are not able to be educated. Indeed, resources are so scarce in many areas that education has to be prioritised among those who do not have a disability, the thinking being the resource will be better utilised if someone without disability is able to attend school, gain employment and help the family.
Whilst the situation for blind people and other disabilities in our region is challenging, there are service providers, most of who are non government organisations, existing on tiny budgets and reliant on donations from the general public both within the country and Internationally and sometimes through partnerships with foreign governments who support various aspects of these service's operations. The services these organisations provide are varied, often catering for children and adults with various disabilities and engage in activities ranging from formal and informal education to the provision of equipment, family support and in some instances, minor medical procedures such as hearing and vision testing. These service providers are often the only place where people with disability and their families can receive support and-or access to educational services; the majority of these people are unintentionally excluded from most government funded programs or experience great difficulty accessing them, including the standard health system.
On a positive note, ignorance of disability and stigma associated with it is decreasing, largely thanks to United Nations instruments such as the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disability and the Sustainable Development Goals which are set up to protect disability rights and which most Pacific regional governments have signed up to. This has lead to a louder voice in the community from people with disability who are becoming increasingly organised and sharing issues directly affecting them. For blind people, the issues they often encounter relate to lack of educational and-or employment opportunities.
Since the coronavirus pandemic began, the Pacific region, despite a relatively low number of virus cases, swiftly followed the rest of the world into recession and great economic uncertainty. This lead to vital disability services being temporarily halted or shut down altogether as donors were unable to continue providing cash or their assistance was required elsewhere. This has had a devastating impact on the disability sector, especially in the areas of education and general support services. Apart from the usual expenses associated with operating a small organisation, the provision of vital equipment, both medical and assistive, expensive at the best of times has become almost impossible to source. The staff are ready, the students are ready to resume their education but unless financial support isn't available soon, service providers will cease to exist, leaving blind people without access to a basic education which is recognised as a human right, something everyone is entitled to.
Given my experience of volunteering for various disability services in the Pacific over the past 15 years, I understand the current challenges and am seeking funds to ensure people who are blind, who are vision impaired or deaf/blind in our region have the equipment they need to learn and the staff to teach them. All funds received would be spent directly on sustainable disability related projects in the Pacific and items would include Braille machines, study materials, basic medical equipment, assistive technology such as adapted computers, white canes, etc. I'm intending to focus on many countries in the region who all need our help. These include Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Tonga, Samoa and Timor-Leste.
Your donation will have a positive and lasting impact, helping to break the cycle of poverty so many with disability are trapped in due to a lack of education. Change this and you've changed the world for the better.
I thank you for your wonderful support.
- Nicole Harry
- Bridget Jolley
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