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- VISPA Make a Difference Awards
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The first ever Make a Difference Awards took place on World Sight Day on Thursday the 14th of October. Members of VISPA, which includes NCBI, Fighting Blindness, The Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind and St Joseph’s Centre for the Visually Impaired joined forces with Specsavers for the awards, to ensure that those who really make a difference to the lives of people with vision impairments are recognised on a national stage.
The awards were hosted by Anton Savage; known to many as the presenter of The Apprentice: You’re Fired.
There were three categories of awards – individual, community and business.
In the individual category Eamon Wolfe, Michael Sutton and Donna Jane Casey were all nominated. Hotelier Eamonn Wolfe from Wicklow was announced as the winner of the Individual Contribution award for his generous efforts to the residents of NAHVI, National Association of Housing for the Visually Impaired, in Donabate. Facilitating and funding a sailing trip to Turkey annually, Eamonn was nominated for giving the vision impaired residents experiences that they will never forget and building their confidence.
Eamonn says: ‘On the first trip to Turkey we were walking into the unknown, I didn’t know what to expect from it and neither did the young people. I was astonished at their zest for life and the trips have given me so much more back as I watch the groups grow in confidence. The group relished in the experience of jumping off the boat, eating octopus catch that morning. It makes me appreciate my sight and the beauty in the scenery. The trip has now become the highlight of my year and I’m truly honoured to have them visit me in Turkey.’
In the Community category, The Family Resource Centre Hospital in Limerick, Alone and St Joseph’s school were all nominated. The Family Resource Centre Hospital in Limerick was named as the winner. Four ladies from Colemanswell nominated the Hospital Family Resource Centre for its disability group Step Forward. The Centre provides a fully accessible building for people with vision impairments to meet, share supports and access information and training.
A member of the group, with a visual impairment, said: ‘If it wasn’t for the group and centre, I would not have anything. It has opened doors and supports to me that I would otherwise not have had access to in my community.’
Finally in the business category, Glaxo Smith Kline, The Goblet bar, Artane and Quinns bar, Drumcondra were all nominated. Glaxo Smith Kline in Dungarvan was the winner of the ‘Business’ category. Mr Kilcrann from Blanchardstown nominated Glaxo Smith Kline due to the assistance, help, and belief that the company gave to his sister, Nuala, who was diagnosed with macular degeneration four years ago. The company’s support for Nuala has enabled her to continue to live and work independently even though her sight is still deteriorating.
VISPA chairperson Brian Allen speaking at the award ceremony said,
“We have had an extremely tough job judging these entries and we want to thank all the nominees for the difference they have already made in the lives of vision impaired people.
314 million people worldwide live with sight loss, affecting everyone from the elderly through to babies. Restorations of sight, blindness prevention and support strategies are among the most cost-effective interventions in health care and the urgency to make these interventions cannot be over emphasised. With so many sight conditions being degenerative, the clock is ticking and action is needed urgently.”