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Helping the visually impaired achieve their full potential, 25 years on

By Ottrisha Carter

This October the organisation of Persons Associated with Visual Impairment (PAVI) is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

This non-profit organisation, established in October 1995 and recognised by the Ministry of Social Development and the Ministry of Health, specialises in giving assistance to those who suffer with visual impairment.

In April 1996, PAVI became a member of the Caribbean Council for the Blind and has been working assiduously, providing care and services to both visually impaired persons and those suffering with eye illnesses since August 1996.

PAVI’s message to the public: “BLINDNESS ought not to stop you! At PAVI we stand with you and work for you that your life will continue with quality.” According to the Values of the Organization, “… PAVI has been driven by the value of helping people to prevent visual impairment, and ensuring that those who are visually impaired achieve their full potential …”

Although 2020 is a great year of celebration and accomplishment for PAVI, the organisation is unable to turn a blind eye to the fact that the coronavirus pandemic has more or less interfered with the manner in which they delivered services to their members.

In an interview with PAVI’s President, Bhawani Persad, he stated that, “Basically there are no services at this time because of the lockdown and restrictions.”

Unfortunately, the pandemic has put a halt on the Adjustment to Blindness programme which consists of learning daily living skills (personal and home management), white cane training (identifying objects and clearing the way) and support groups which are located in South, Central and on the East-West Corridor.

Computer training and braille sessions were also cancelled temporarily. These were some of the services offered to PAVI’s members before the pandemic.

PAVI President, Bhawani Persad (right), and First Vice President Candice John

PAVI’s small staff has taken the opportunity to reach out to their members on a regular basis. They are able to check up on their members, make sure they are okay and are coping with all that is happening during this period of crisis through email, Facebook, and other social media platforms. Through these forms of communication, they can provide moral support, advice, and guidance to their members.

Persad also mentioned that the members who live alone may be experiencing the most challenges in terms of getting assistance from others to help them at home.

However, members are taking all the necessary precautions from the Ministry of Health regarding staying at home, sanitising, wearing masks in public and exercising social distancing. Most members receive financial assistance from the Ministry of Social Development through disability grants.

Members are given the opportunity to express themselves creatively through their participation in events such as PAVI’s annual Calypso competition. This year, PAVI is also thinking about hosting a virtual Christmas concert so that their members would be able to share their talents with others.

PAVI was hoping to celebrate its 25th anniversary this year, with an award ceremony in which people would have been recognised for their contributions over the course of the years. But with pandemic restrictions in effect, they were forced to cancel their celebration and find other creative means to raise awareness of their organisation through social media.

PAVI’s mission statement states, “PAVI will intervene and advocate for equal opportunities for persons with visual impairments, as well as provide education for the prevention of blindness.”

Therefore, if someone is suffering from glaucoma, cataract, keratoconus or any other eye illness or disorder, he or she is welcomed to apply for membership to learn more about protecting their eyes and preventing blindness.

PAVI will refer persons to medical specialists who can provide the medical assistance and attention they need. PAVI will also be a part of the process of moving forward for any interested persons.

Members of the public can raise awareness and advocate for the visually impaired or those who are suffering with eye disorders through PAVI’s Facebook page, by contacting PAVI’s Barataria office at 220-1073 or by supporting PAVI’s annual Christmas luncheon which is scheduled to take place early in December and will be distributed through take-away service.

Fundraising drives are carried out to raise funds to support projects and work at PAVI. Financial contributions will be greatly appreciated and can be deposited to PAVI’s Republic Bank Account 3204 2730 4201.