Blind military veterans from the US and South Africa headed to Llandudno to join Blind Veterans UK, for an exchange week beginning on Sunday (22/05).
Members of the US organisation the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) visited Britain through an exchange programme between the Association and Blind Veterans UK called Project Gemini.
Project Gemini enables Blind Veterans UK and the BVA to share experiences and knowledge about matters such as blind rehabilitation and readjustment training, vision research and adaptive technology for the blind. This year, two blind veterans from South Africa’s St. Dunstan’s Association also joined the project.
The veterans engaged in adaptive technology activities and sports for the blind. Other highlights include a tour of the Blind Veterans UK Rehabilitation Centre in Llandudno and visits to other nearby historic sites.
Major Tom Zampieri (Ret.), a legally blind veteran himself, who also accompanied the group as the trip coordinator. He says: “This week is so important because the three groups of veterans are able to share helpful hints about coping with blindness and the “war stories” that are part of their personal adjustment to blindness and subsequent rehabilitation.
“We learn about strategies for coming to terms with sight loss, lessons from the American, British and South African healthcare systems and veterans’ services, and how all of our organisations can best support blind veterans in our three nations.
“This year’s exchange is particularly special as the group will be visiting Wales for the first time and staying at the Blind Veterans UK rehabilitation and training centre in Llandudno.”
British blind veteran Colin Williamson says: “Blind Veterans UK is very proud to be welcoming comrades from around the world to Wales.
“This week will be fun but what it’s really about is ex-Service men from different countries coming together to share experiences and support each other.”
BVA traces its earliest beginnings to March 28, 1945 when a group of war-blinded servicemen met at Avon Old Farms Convalescent Hospital near Avon, Connecticut.
Blind Veterans UK was founded in 1915 and the charity’s initial purpose was to help and support soldiers blinded in the First World War. But the organisation has gone on to support more than 35,000 blind veterans and their families, spanning the Second World War to recent conflicts including Iraq and Afghanistan.
For more than a century, the charity has been providing vital free training, rehabilitation, equipment and emotional support to blind and vision-impaired veterans no matter when they served or how they lost their sight.
Visit blindveterans.org.uk/support to learn more about the charity and how you can support its vital work today.