June Hieatt, 80-years-old, never thought she would be able to complete an eight day Outward Bound course.

When she put her application in to the Blind Foundation Community and Life Enrichment team she expected the response to be a hard ‘no’.

“I thought there’s no way that they’ll let me in, but after my medical test came back with no issues, before I knew it, I was on my way.”

June proved that age is just a number and completed challenges on the course in March including a three kilometre run or walk each morning followed by a swim, hiking, sailing, high ropes, flying foxes and a night alone in the bush with nothing but her thoughts to keep her company.

“Never in a million years did I think I would be able to do what I did. I’m just beside myself that I completed it and I still think about it to this day.”

She says one of the highlights of the experience was the company and working as a team. She was one of 12 blind or low vision participants that attended the course in Queen Charlotte Sound, funded by the Blind Foundation.

June’s husband died three years ago and she says it is opportunities like this which gives her the strength to continue.

“Everyone helped each other out and we worked as a team. I have had macular degeneration for six years now, but it only really struck me when my husband died. The Blind Foundation helped me learn how to cope. I used to feel so inadequate but it’s experiences like this where I can overcome challenges and meet interesting people which gives me strength and makes me grateful for what I have, instead of focusing on what I don’t have.”

The group were given no special allowances because of their vision loss which challenged attitudes of other participants attending the same course.

On the first day they were late for assembly after breakfast so the instructor banned them from attending just like she would anyone else.

Not wanting to find themselves in the same position again, the Blind Foundation group worked out a system playing on everyone’s strengths to ensure that the breakfast and clean-up ran smoothly, in spite of varying degrees of vision loss.

They were never late to assembly again.

“It made people realise just how capable we are if we have the right strategies in place.”

She encourages anyone interested, regardless of age, to sign-up for the 2019 course.

“It was the most strenuous, demanding, challenging thing I have ever done. It was a hoot and I am eternally grateful for the care, guidance and understanding of the Community and Life Enrichment team.”

Interested in attending the 2019 course? Contact Recreation and Volunteer Coordinator Kelly O’Donnell on 07 838 7507 or email kodonnell@blindfoundation.org.nz.