Fantastic challenge guys, all the best.
[mailto:blindsacapetown-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Ferdi Venter
Sent: 14 June 2016 08:49 AM
Subject: [blindsacapetown] FORWARDED ARTICLE: Blind hikers defy the odds
I think this is great, lets wish them all of the best, they are members of our
Bolander / News
Blind hikers defy the odds
NEWS / 08 June '16, 02:00am
If you've ever tried to find your way around in the pitch dark, even in your
own home which you know well, you'll know just how difficult it is to do so
without barking your shins, walking into a wall, or falling over a piece of
Now imagine tackling the Fish River Canyon in Namibia with your eyes closed,
from the time you make the hazardous and precipitous descent to the canyon
floor, all the way down the 89 km canyon to Ai-Airs, and you'll know what
Strand resident Zelda Oosthuizen will be doing in June, but she won't have to
close her eyes to do it in darkness: Zelda is blind.
Zelda lost her sight in 2012 in a shooting accident, and her experiences since
then have brought home with great force just how difficult it is for blind
people to get a job, how sighted people battle to communicate with blind
people, and how the disability seems to disqualify blind people from being
useful members of society.
"Sighted people struggle to communicate with blind people, because they can't
make eye contact," says Zelda, recounting a recent experience where during a
visit to the bank, the attendant insisted on speaking to the person who
accompanied Zelda, rather than to Zelda herself. "Because they can't look you
in the eye, they rather look at - and talk to - the person next to you."
"You can speak to me; I'm blind, not brain dead," she says. "There is still a
person behind these eyes that cannot see."
Zelda will be accompanied on her arduous journey by Corrie Brits, who lost his
sight due to glaucoma at an early age. The two intrepid adventurers will be
lead by a team of sighted hikers, which includes Sharon Goosen of the Worcester
Institute for the Blind, but each of them will carry their own backpacks,
approximately 20% of bodyweight, with everything they need.
Tyger Valley resident Johan Kruger, who has hiked the Fish River Canyon many
times, is the expedition leader - and he conceptualised the idea of making the
expedition a blind awareness campaign, when he heard Zelda speaking about the
plight of blind people on Radio Sonder Grense (RSG). "I got Zelda's telephone
number, and we met and chatted," says Johan, "and we came up with idea of
hiking the Fish as a means of raising public awareness about the plight of
"I've spoken to many blind people, and they all tell me that it is very
difficult to get a job," says Zelda. "We're doing this to show people, if you
give a blind person a challenge to surmount they will go ahead with full force
because they do not want to disappoint. If a blind person can do this, what's
stopping a company from giving a blind person a desk, a chair, a computer and a
meaningful job to do?"
The group of 12 hikers includes Zelda, Corrie, Sharon Goosen, Johan, and eight
sighted hikers. Each member of the expedient is responsible for their own
costs, but for Zelda and Corrie, a fundraising initiative was launched to help
them with transport and the camping and hiking gear they require.
Zelda's previous employer, Imperial Holdings, has sponsored the 12 seater
mini-bus needed for the expedition, as well as all her camping and hiking gear.
"The funds raised will only be used for the blind members of the expedition,
and Sharon Gooosen of the Worcester Institute for the Blind,"
says Johan. "The other expedition members pay all their own costs, including
fuel for the trip, and hiking permits."
"If there are funds left over after the trip," says Zelda, "I want to use some
of that money to take children from the Worcester Institute for the Blind out
for a day outing."
The severe drought in Southern Africa might pose a challenge to the expedition,
according to Johan, but there is a Plan B. "The authorities might not allow the
hike to go ahead if the water level in the Fish is too low, but we'll only know
that closer to the time (June 25 is departure date). If the Canyon is closed,
we will do a hike in the Orange river Valley, starting at Onseetkans, down the
river for about 40km to the mission station at Pella near Pofadder, then back
up to Onseetkans. The route follows a figure of eight, is about 76km long, and
the terrain is similar to the Fish," says Johan.
* To contribute towards Zelda's expedition costs, contact her at 021 853 1003.
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