2018, our 10th Anniversary, has been a remarkable year for Blind Beginnings. Through the year, we continued to offer educational and experiential workshops, pre-employment training, summer camps and recreational activities to help blind and partially sighted children and youth develop the skills, confidence and independence necessary to live a life without limits.
This year we also expanded our partnership with Vision Loss Rehabilitation Canada, a newly incorporated national organization created within the CNIB, to provide services to children from birth to age five and their families in BC. Through this partnership we are now in contact with approximately 150 new families across all regions of BC. This means we now need to focus on building programs and services outside of the Metro Vancouver region to support these families. The first region we targeted was the Okanagan where we offered an Early Intervention Family Retreat in Kelowna. We are hopeful these families will want to continue to meet and help create a Community Discovery Program in that region. If successful, we to to bring this model to other communities around the province. In addition, we are looking into revising our Creating Confidence and What Happens After Grad Workshops with the goal of offering them online to reach children and youth in more remote regions of the province.
This year we also started an online drop-in support group for parents of our children from birth to kindergarten age. Many live in rural parts of the province where they may be the only ones in their community raising a child who is blind. These parents can now join together in a private online chat room to communicate with each other using their computer or smartphone.
We have big plans for our programs for children and youth who are blind or partially sighted and their families in the coming year and we hope you will join us in supporting and participating in our future success!
All that we have achieved this year would not have been possible without the support of our donors, partners and volunteers. On behalf of our blind and partially sighted children and youth and their families, we offer you our deepest gratitude.
Founder & Executive Director
President, Board of Directors
SUMMER CAMPS & ACTIVE LIFESTYLE PROGRAM
Camp Hornby was held on Hornby Island from July 19-23 and provided our families with an outdoor adventure camp experience. They participated in a variety of challenging activities which many people think are impossible for blind youth, including rock climbing, high rope courses, kayaking, boat riding, challenge games, beep kickball, camp fires and more.
Family Adventure Camp
Our Family Adventure Camp was held August 16-19 in Sooke to give our families the opportunity to participate in a traditional camping and outdoor adventure experience. Children challenged and extended personal limits by participating standup paddleboarding, hiking, fishing and practicing their skills in the kitchen as well as other skills related to independent living. At the same time, parents learned to raise their expectations for their child ranging from helping in the kitchen to being out on a lake.
Kootenay Project Adventure
Blind Beginnings helped plan and fund the Kootenay Project Adventure held from June 7-9 in Nelson. Executive Director Shawn Marsolais and several Blind Beginnings youth leaders attended the camp and were involved in a leadership capacity.
One of the main activities took place at the Four Nations Coalition of Indigenous Medicines in the Slocan Valley. Partnering with School District #8 Vision Services, the Four Nations sponsored a full-day to bring students with visual impairments together with sighted peers to participate in indigenous cultural outdoor activities, including blindfold archery tag and making bannock over an open fire.
YOUTH LEADERSHIP & PRE-EMPLOYMENT PROGRAM
Youth Leadership Training Weekend
Our Youth Leadership training weekend took place in the Spring. Youth from across the province learned leadership skills and how to work in teams and manage conflict. They also learned about organization, time management and how to prepare and give presentations on their visual impairment to put sighted peers at ease with blindness. Throughout the weekend, youth stayed at a hotel, ate in restaurants, and practiced their mobility skills through travel by public transit. Teachers of Students with Visual Impairment partnered with us to make the youth leadership weekend a huge success.
Youth leader projects included a monthly Craft Committee that has expanded from tactile greeting cards, to include knitted projects, beaded butterfly keychains, and braille chocolate bars. The Committee has been selling these items at various markets across Metro Vancouver to make money for the program and raise Blind Beginnings’ public profile. Another group of youth leaders formed a Newsletter Committee and have been publishing issues of Limitless News an average of three times per year.
Getting Together with Technology (GTT) Program
Two of our tech-minded youth worked with the Canadian Council of the Blind to offer the Getting Together with Technology (GTT) program twice a month. This program offers youth an opportunity to provide technology mentoring to adults who are blind and new to using this technology.
Buddy Up Tandem Cycling Club
Our youth leaders also started our tandem cycling program in partnership with BC Blind Sports Youth and sighted pilots who road together on Sunday mornings throughout the Spring and Summer. Thanks to some media coverage about this program, Blind Beginnings received several tandem bike donations from people who heard about our program and wanted to contribute.
EDUCATIONAL & EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING PROGRAM
Community Discovery Outings
This year we began offering Community Discovery outings every month in the Metro-Vancouver region. Our families enjoyed cross country skiing, snow-shoeing, gardening, a Mother’s Day lunch, a visit to Playland, a described performance onboard the Stanley Park Ghost Train, bouncing at the Sky Zone Trampling Park and an ice skating session.
Community Art Project
We created a Community Art Project to commemorate Blind Beginnings’ 10th Anniversary. From June to September, we hosted four different opportunities for families to contribute to the project, creating clay pieces using cookie cutters or free-hand, the pieces were later painted, and assembled with the clay pieces sitting on three mobility canes cemented into a planter box. The final project was a masterpiece that was tactile, colourful, and representative of the diversity of families we support at Blind Beginnings.
Creating Confidence Program
We offered a Creating Confidence Workshop from July 31 to August 2nd for children or youth aged 9-15. In a fun and safe environment, they shared in activities, discussions, and real-life situations intended to increase confidence and expand social skills. Other topics covered in this intensive 3-day program included: what nonverbal communication says about you; how to communicate effectively and put people at ease about their blindness; adopting positive self-esteem and self-acceptance; and knowing how to dress and what to do in social situations.
EARLY INTERVENTION, COUNSELLING & FAMILY SUPPORT PROGRAM
Expanded Partnership with CNIB (Vision Loss Rehab Canada)
We expanded our partnership with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) to provide services to children from birth to age five and their families across BC. Blind Beginnings’ role in this partnership is to connect with all new families, and help them to connect with each other. Through this partnership, we are now in contact with 150 new families across BC and are focused on building programs and services outside of the Lower Mainland to support these families.
Okanagan Family Retreat
We offered our first Okanagan Family Retreat in West Kelowna November 3-4 in collaboration with CNIB’s Vision Loss Rehabilitation, Provincial Resource Centre for the Visually Impaired, and the BC Blind Sports & Recreation Association. Families from across the Okanagan attended with children ranging in age from 3 to 9 years old. The weekend covered a wide range of topics, including an introduction to Cortical Visual Impairment, how to make family outings meaningful for children with a visual impairment and how to make physical activity and recreation work for all family members. There was also a music therapy session, an outing to a therapeutic farm, a sing-along/story time and plenty of other playground fun and card games.
Online Parent Support Group
We established an online drop-in support group for parents of our children who are blind or partially sighted from birth to kindergarten age. The challenges faced by parents with blind or partially sighted children can be overwhelming as they learn about an unfamiliar diagnosis, trying to understand what their child can or can’t see and scheduling appointments with many medical professionals and/or therapists. Many live in rural parts of the province where they are the only ones raising a child who is blind in their community. These parents can now connect in a private online chat room moderated by Blind Beginnings Executive Director Shawn Marsolais who is a registered clinical counselor.
THANK YOU TO OUR MANY SUPPORTERS
Blind Beginnings is deeply grateful to our many supporters, including volunteers, individual donors, community partners and major financial contributors who have made it possible to serve BC’s blind and partially sighted children and their families. (Shawn, can you expand on this to show how important our volunteers are.
We have approximately 70 volunteers who are involved in virtually every aspect of our organization. We estimate that our volunteers have devoted approximately 3,000 hours of their time to support our work. (Shawn, can you expand on this to show how important our volunteers are and how much we appreciate them.)
Thanks to our partners listed below, Blind Beginnings has be able to achieve so much in our mission to help children and youth who are blind or partially and their families.
Vision Loss Rehabilitation BC: partnering to offer quality support to children birth to five years of age and their families across BC.
BC Blind Sports & Recreation Association: partner on our tandem cycling program, and participated in our Regional Family Retreats.
Canadian Council of the Blind: partner in our Youth Leadership program offering opportunities for our youth to gain skills in group facilitation, organizational skills, and peer tutoring through the Getting Together with Technology program
Teachers for Students with Visual Impairments: volunteer in our summer camps and Youth Leadership Training programs.
Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children: participated in Regional Family Retreats to provide information about services available to children who are blind or partially sighted
Canadian Deafblind Association: shared information and resources for families with children who are deafblind
Provincial Resource Centre for the Visually Impaired: partner with our Regional Family Retreats to bring resources to new families.
BFO Consulting: provides coaching to youth who are blind or partially sighted on all aspects of public speaking
Our funding in 2018 came from individuals, foundations, corporations and community groups. Over 100 individual donors contributed in 2018, while grants and sponsorships were received from the foundations, charitable organizations and corporations named below. Many smaller businesses also contributed a long list of items that were auctioned at our annual gala that raised funds from the almost 200 people who bought tickets to the event. In addition, BC Gaming provided a generous grant to Blind Beginnings. Thank you to all who contributed in support of Blind Beginnings!
Bosa Family Foundation
The Foord Family Foundation
Lori Sheppard Memorial Fund (held at Vancouver Foundation)
The Walsh Foundation
Thompson Okanagan Community Board
The Military Police Fund for Blind Children
Great Canadian Casinos Inc.
Al Roadburg Foundation
Djavad Mowafaghian Foundation
Dorothy Ryan Estate Fund
Thompson Okanagan Telus Community Board
CKNW Kids’ Fund
The Canada Post Foundation
Pacific Blasting and Demolition Ltd.
Westminster Savings Foundation
Vancity Community Foundation
The Recreation Foundation of BC
Sisters of St. Anne
Clear Skies Children’s Foundation
Chris Spencer Foundation
Mountain Equipment Co-op
Teck Resources Inc.
Christ Church Ladies Guild
The Fraternal Order of Eagles – New Westminster
The Fraternal Order of Eagles – Penticton Aerie
The Fraternal Order of Eagles – Ladies Auxiliary – Penticton Aerie
Northern Van Lines
Golden Thread Foundation
Provincial Employees’ Community Service Fund
Edith Lando Foundation
The Wickerson Foundation
Cody’s Fund (held at the Vancouver Foundation)
Mountain Meadows PAC
2019: The Year Ahead
We hope to continue offering a full range of our current programs and services in 2019. We are also planning to take the first steps towards achieving our dream of acquiring a house where our youth will have an intensive opportunity acquire the skills to live independently. The last time we offered our Advanced Leadership program in 2017, five youth leaders lived in a residence for five days learning how to meal plan, grocery shop, cook, clean, do laundry, and get along with roommates. The youth, staff and volunteers who participated agreed in the program was very beneficial, but far too short to learn all that is required to live independently. It became clear that we need a permanent house where our youth can experience living on their own in a supported environment for a longer period. The house would also serve as our staff headquarters and education centre.
A generous individual who shares our vision for a house has donated $6,500 to help us start developing a house acquisition strategy for implementation in 2019.