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You can multiply Mpini’s reach as she sets her energy to work teaching other blind and visually impaired folk how to create their own sources of income…

Did you see it coming? I didn’t.

Lockdown’s lasting human toll will undoubtedly be the massive loss of jobs. Worse, these hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of desperate South Africans will no doubt find it very hard to get back into work again.

Yet, for blind folk, it’s always been that way.

Very few blind or visually impaired people are ever offered permanent jobs. Someone who’s very aware of this is Mpini Johanna Letlhage, a Blind SA volunteer who has a powerful ambition. You’ll find her story inspiring…

‘‘Growing up I used to struggle at school, I was unable to see the board from a distance.’’ Mpini tells us. ‘‘I then decided to go visit an ophthalmologist and that was when I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa.

‘’At first I didn’t know what it was or what it does, but as the doctor explained everything to me – “you will slowly become blind”. That was when I felt like my whole life is coming to an end, especially as young as I was. How will my life be after this? How is my family going to treat me? Thoughts kept on coming but answers never came…

“Time went by and indeed my eyes were slowly getting blind. Everything the doctor said was true which was something I hoped would become the biggest lie of my life…”

Like many blind children in our country, Mpini did not get any special school-ing, and was never taught braille.

In spite of this, Mpini has grown up with a real desire to inspire change, to lead people towards better things… ‘‘I have lived to help and motivate young and old people living with disability,’’  she says. As such, she founded House of Hope, which is now part of the national network of nearly thirty entities around the country that make up Blind SA’s member organisations. She also serves on a number of our committees.

But it’s Mpini’s newest passion that I really want to tell you more about because it has the potential to deliver so much good…

Very aware that earning an income is out of reach for most blind South Africans, Mpini was drawn to the idea of helping people to start a business idea of their own.

‘Start Your Business’ (SYB) is a programme of the International Labour Organisation that has trained fifteen million people worldwide and led to the start-up of 2.5 million new small businesses. Mpini was determined to be involved in this here.

After finding out that she needed funding to complete her experiential course and become an accredited ILO trainer, she approached Blind SA and we gladly stepped in.

I don’t earn a living from it, Mpini told us. But, as an accredited SYB trainer, I’ll be able to coach people with all disabilities, helping them to start something that will earn them a living. And maybe I’ll be able to earn from it too some day.

We hope that Mpini’s energy and enthusiasm do help her new ‘students’ to create something for themselves – however humble – that goes on to give them the dignity and independence that comes with being able to earn an income.

Your support can really help us multiply this all around the country.

Our member organisations are really important in helping to reach and sustain our work in the far corners of South Africa. It’s your friendship and understanding that will help us find and encourage all the other ‘Mpinis’ out there who understand what needs to be done, and want to do it!

Yes, these amazing people may also be active in the very important area of helping blind folk to earn a living – like Mpini. But they may also be promoting education, introducing new people to our orientation and mobility programmes, or bringing the magic of braille to school children and adults alike.

It’s all about opening doors, so blind and visually impaired South Africans can find their fullest potential.

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