The Blind Foundation’s new youth international development programme opens up a world of opportunity to future leaders. It includes opportunities for youth to develop skills in areas like leadership, presentations and project management.

As part of the experience, four Kiwi youth (aged 17 to 25) recently embarked on a journey of a lifetime on the shores of Lake Joseph in Toronto, Canada.

Amanda Beaver, Daniel Holt, Leah Morris, and Rachel Shardlow – who all have low vision – took part in the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB)’s Camp Joe in July.

The camp involved leadership workshops, employment seminars, networking opportunities, and fun recreational activities to enjoy the Canadian summer. The group also spent two days in Toronto to experience big city life.

Blair Gilbert, Blind Foundation National Manager of Community, Volunteers and Recreation Services, says the experience was a huge success.

“The camp gave the group an opportunity to not only build international connections but to understand differences in cultures, and have some fun as well. The group then got to meet the CNIB senior executive team and connect with the CNIB National Canadian Youth Council. They spent quality time talking with these individuals about the future of the blindness community.

“They were proud to represent New Zealand. As a result, they’ve developed international relationships and gained a better understanding of the blindness community on a global scale.”

21-year-old Leah says her experience is one she will never forget.

“It’s hard to express the whole camp experience in just a couple of words but what I can say about it is that it was a once in a lifetime experience. I learnt so much about myself as well as others, I was overwhelmed by how amazing it was. The contacts and connections I have made during this trip were outstanding and I am excited to be part of the future of the Blind Foundation.”

Now back from the trip, the team will lead on community projects to benefit other blind and low vision Kiwi youth. They will also share their experience and learnings with the Blind Foundation Board and staff, and other young clients.