Let me tell you a short story about CNIB’S Lake Joseph (known as "Lake Joe") camp, located in Ontario's Muskoka region, and what it meant for one teen in coming to terms with vision loss.
Five years ago there was a partially sighted girl who was not comfortable with who she was, she would try to hide her visual impairment at school, shy away from meeting new people, and she would never ever dare to try to do something on her own. She felt isolated.
In the summer after high school, she finally agreed to attend the SCORE Program (which stands for Skills, Confidence and Opportunities through Recreation and Education) at Lake Joe.
Despite attending with a friend who was also visually impaired, the thought of traveling without her family, and nights away from home made her quite nervous. For the first three days, she did not speak and her peers did not know she was there!
However, Lake Joe provided opportunities to try new activities in a relaxing area and an experience to learn some practical skills.
Following a team building activity where she was elected mayor of Lake Joe, one week later she began to make new friends, many of which she still keeps in touch with five years later.
It was at Lake Joe where she began her journey to becoming an independent adult and where she discovered her passion for helping other blind and partially sighted youth discover their own confidence.
She later joined the CNIB’s National Youth Council in order to champion youth issues, and give youth a voice. In the past year, her confidence grew to the point where she is now the new Co-Chair of the council.
It was Lake Joe that provided the practical, social, and independent skills and abilities for her (and I am sure many other young people with vision loss) to see they are not alone, they are capable of so much, and should not be afraid.
So you see, it’s not just a camp; it’s a chance at a new beginning.
This story is autobiographical and I am that shy person who, five years earlier, could not reach out and make new friends.
Avesta is a member of the National Youth Council. The National Youth Council provides a voice for youth who are blind, deafblind, or partially sighted and gives them the opportunity to influence change and increase awareness of issues facing Canadian youth living with vision loss. We act to ensure that current initiatives, new programs and policies are reflective of and responsive to the needs of youth with vision loss.