Celebrating 60 years

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The Ashburton Community Committee for Blind Low Vision NZ (BLVNZ) is celebrating 60 years of helping visually impaired people in Mid Canterbury.

On April 4 1962 the first minute book records that “A meeting was held in the Municipal Chambers, Havelock St, in connection with a desire to discuss the possible formation of an interim advisory committee of the New Zealand Foundation of the Blind.”

Since then the committee’s volunteers have been assisting the blind in the community organising events, equipment and mobility help.

Committee secretary Eleanor Weir said normally (before covid) there is a monthly meeting held for members.

“With food, entertainment and socialising with others who have vision problems.”

Committee chairman Dennis Swaney said one of the best things for someone diagnosed with a vision problem is meeting other people in a similar situation.

“It’s more meaningful for someone to talk to a person who has experienced and overcome the same problems.”

Mr Swaney got involved with the organisation when he was wondering what to do when he retired.

“I thought, what would be the worse thing that could happen to me, so I thought being blind I would be totally lost, so I decided to come along and help,” he said.

“When they get diagnosed with the condition, the Blind Foundation contact us, we go and visit them and see what we can do to make their life easier.

“It’s not just elderly, it’s all ages, it can be a very stressful time,” he said.

Ashburton is setup well for the visually impaired.

“The town centre is better now than what it was, I think the centre of town is flatter now, (but) the business signs on the footpath can be a problem, people just walk into them.”

The organisation is always looking for new volunteers, if you would like to help out contact Mr Swaney on 027 222 1281, or contact BLVNZ on 0800 24 3333 for eyesight issues.

-By Daniel Tobin