"Providing tools for living and learning for blind young people in Africa"
Originally, funds for Blindaid Africa,were earned by the personal efforts of just a few who organised baking sales and trading tables in two Radstock church halls, in the southwest of England. As the many positive results of our work became evident we began to receive increasingly generous support from others. Initially this came from church groups and social clubs locally, and then spreading throughout the Southwest of England. We are now supported in various ways by people of various nationalities and creeds throughout the world.
We receive regular donations of superceded audio equipment and typewriters, occasional white canes and braille writing frames and machines. These gifts are all serviced and sent on to a school or private individual where we are confident they will be put to good use. Often the recipient writes a brailled letter of thanks, which is transcribed and sent on to the original donor. In recent months Blindaid Africa has channeled practical gifts from as far afield as The Netherlands, Australia and the United States , into Resource Centres for the Blind in Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
This has also increased greatly, from a variety of sources. Church and social groups invite our Director to address meetings. Subsequently, generous contributions are made to our funds. In the year 2005, the Bristol network of the Methodist Church nominated Blindaid Africa as its Charity of the Year. The resulting donation was 5,000 . Another recent donation of 545 pounds raised from coffee mornings (see newspaper clipping Becky Brooks, The Journal). Cash donations and standing orders from members of the public are also received regularly.
There is a Braille Unit in H.M.P. Garth, Lancashire, where thirteen prisoners, under the direction of Mr. Jeff Bennett, have studied and mastered Braille. They work regularly, transcribing required school texts into Braille and producing large print volumes which are in great demand.. After they had been asked by Blindaid to transcribe and print copies of a much needed handbook about H.I.V. AIDS, these men decided that they would like to continue to work for Blind African students. They are now transcribing and printing many volumes, the only restriction on their production being the considerable cost to Blindaid of the necessary supplies of paper, binding combs and ink. This has recently changed. After the last period of Ramadan, the Muslim Prisoners in H.M.P. Garth, one of whom is a Braillist, donated 250 to be spent on braille paper. They approached the prison Governor and asked her to match their donation. The prison authorities complied and donated a further 250 which is being used to provide ink and paper.
Students from recipient schools in Malawi and Zimbabwe are now writing letters of thanks in Braille to the prisoners in England who are doing so much to help them.
In 2008, Mr. Jeff Bennett, was awarded the Elton trophy, for his services to the Braille Unit of H.M.P. Garth, and for his liaising with Blindaid Africa.
Another form of support must also be mentioned - it is invaluable. Required reading for secondary and tertiary students includes literature written in English by African authors as well as many standard texts which are only available in print. There is an ongoing demand for volunteer readers to record these books onto cassette tapes. Master copies of all recorded books are retained in our Blindaid Library of recorded books in Radstok, England and as many copies as are required are sent to schools and colleges throughout Africa.
Major support came to us recently in the form of an anonymous donation which provides funding for Latim Matenje, Dip.ed. of Malawi, to study Political Science at the University of Pretoria in the Union of South Africa. The organisation of this degree course for Latim, to study internationally at a prestigious university posed many problems which were finally resolved. However, his personal difficulties, as a foreign, blind, first year student are far from over. Latim faces the future with courage saying, "I didn't expect it to be easy." Latim was nominated for this anonymous gift because since completing his own school education, he has become a role model and counsellor to other blind students throughout Africa. He has not only provided moral support to his fellow blind Africans, but is also a source of inspiration to the Director and trustees of Blindaid Africa.