Born legally blind, Elizabeth Lalonde has become a tireless advocate for other blind people.
“I knew for a long time that there was a gap in services for blind adults in Canada, and I got the opportunity to go to a training centre, a very positive, empowering one, in the States, in Louisiana, for ten months.”
That was in 2010. In 2013, Elizabeth founded the Pacific Training Centre for the Blind in Victoria, BC. Her school has taught hundreds the skills to be independent.
“Skills such as braille, and travelling with a long white cane, learning to use a talking computer, learning how to cook and clean, and just live independently, and productively, and happily” says Lalonde.
Every instructor at the school is blind themselves.
“Having blind instructors” says Cane Travel Instructor Gina Huylenbroeck, “means we are able to problem solve around things that come up in our [students] lives. We have each other to be inspired by, and learn new techiniques, and new ways, because we’re living it every day.”
The Pacific Training Centre is a registered charity. But, Lalonde points out, it’s expensive to run a school.
“Right now, it probably costs about $10,000 a month, and that’s for rent, which costs a lot, because we’re downtown, and staff wages, which add up because it’s intense training.”
“We kind of live month by month” says Lalonde. “Are we going to be able to run for the next month? Things got better for a while, where maybe we would know over the next six months that we were going to be ok, but right now, we’re really struggling. We may have to close down for a few months until we get more money, and I really don’t want to do that.”
Lalonde knows how much her school means to others. “I’ve had people come to me and actually tell me that they may not have lived if it wasn’t for us, because sight loss, unfortunately, can be very scary for people. We really try to reduce that fear.”
Please click here if you can make a donation to the Pacific Training Centre for the Blind, to ensure the school can continue its vital work.