14-year-old Rowan Garel walked 92 miles across the country to raise awareness of the efforts of the Belize Center for the Visually Impaired and to raise funds for him and his peers to enjoy camp this year.
The BCVI has held a summer camp every year since 1996. Mrs. Joan Samuels is this year’s camp director. She is also BCVI’s Rehabilitation Coordinator and is responsible for the center’s rehabilitation and education program. Samuels started at Stella Marris School as a teacher for blind students. In 1986, she was asked to fill a vacancy at the BCVI for one year. 26 years later, she is still very active in the organization. Samuels said that in its early years, the BCVI Camp taught patients how to socialize and developed awareness of the world around them. Now, the camp has evolved to the point where children learn how to use technological devices such as computers, printers and digital recorders.
Samuels said, “We focus on curriculum plus skills.” The camp caters for blind and low vision students from infant to tertiary level. They learn how to use an abacus; read braille, computer skills and other techniques needed to pursue their education. When the Guardian visited the camp on Wednesday, July 18, the campers were doing math computations with their abacuses. Samuels said that any computation can be done using the abacus.
The camp has really grown over the years. There are 32 campers this year of different age groups. There are camp sites at the BCVI office, the Lion’s Center and at Stella Marris School. The youths enjoy camp a lot because it is not all about school work. Art classes are conducted at the Image Factory. The children also have fun activities such as movie nights and field trips to fun places such as the zoo. Because BCVI stresses the importance of family support in its programs, at least one family member of each camper is required to attend the camp as well. The campers’ relatives take part in the same activities. They too learn how to use the abacus and read braille. Samuels said it allows them to assist the students at home.
Rowan’s heroic efforts have been extremely effective in raising awareness and support for the BCVI Summer Camp. However, more support is needed. The camp could use more volunteers. Samuels said that the center is prepared to train any individual interested in volunteering as a field officer or camp helper. If one wishes to help but does not have time to spare, a financial donation would be equally appreciated. It is very expensive to run a rehabilitation program and the center is constantly in need of financial contributions. The center provides support for 52 students countrywide and its resources are stretched. One can make a donation directly to the center or assist one of its students. Many of them are in need of computers to help with school work. By using the computer, a blind student can type out their work and print it in regular fonts to hand up to teachers. It makes their school life much easier.
The BCVI Camp ends next week.