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Thursday, 21 February 2019 11:48 am

Karori young people get an eye opener

May 17th, 2010 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

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OPENING EYES: From left - Schnell Lemon, Jackie Cooper, Huirua Prime, Kat Walsh and (front) Dylan Stone.

THERE was a time when Huirua Prime went out of her way to avoid a blind person coming towards her in the street.

Not today. The 15-year-old from Karori is far less nervous about people with disabilities because she has been part of a new programme designed to bridge the gap between able youth and those with vision impairment.

Karori Youth Centre worker Schnell Lemon, 29, is trialling the programme, “ko koe ko au, ko au ko koe” – which translates to “I am you, you are me” – with Huirua and four other young people.

It started as a course assignment between her and a former school classmate, Melissa Grange.

The programme, which began on April 17, includes four sessions, one a fortnight, where youth team up with the visually impaired and get to know one another through various activities.

The participants were asked to pair up and get to know their partner as an ice-breaker and then introduce them back into the rest of the group.

They play goalball, an internationally recognised game commonly played by the visually impaired and involving blindfolds, a bell ball and two goals.

Visual aids – like a guide dog and walking cane – were brought along to the first day and the young people started to learn how to use Braille.

“I thought blind people would be a bit stuck up, different…until I’ve met them,” says Huirua.

“I think it was enjoyable,” says Dylan Stone, 15. “You got to meet new people and learn a bit about disabilities and how they came to be.”

Jackie Cooper, 13, says it was fun learning Braille.

Kat Walsh, 21, who has eye disease glaucoma, noticed an attitude adjustment almost immediately.

“Seeing the change in these guys was really cool. All [the visually impaired] thought it was a great initiative and want to do it again.”

The programme gets no funding and Schnell runs it in her free time.

Karori West Normal School has let the group use their hall without charge as a long as they need and food has been donated by Cafe on the Square.

Schnell, who hand-picked the participants who she thought would benefit the most, says the programme benefits youth from both sides.

The visually impaired participants range from people who were born with their disabilities to those who developed them later.

She wants the youth to “recognise that blind people are the same as we are. Walk a day in the shoes of a disabled person, know what it’s like and understand it.”

She is sure nothing like it has been done in New Zealand and  will survey the participants to see if the programme works before considering whether to  promote it nationally.

Other regulars at the Karori Youth Centre say they are keen to join after hearing positive feedback from their peers.

The next session will be held on May 22.

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