The League of Friends of the Blind (LOFOB) has been a beacon of hope for many visually impaired and blind people who have walked through the Grassy Park organisation’s doors during the past nine decades.
The organisation marked their 90th anniversary last Thursday, February 2.
A thanksgiving service was held at the Grassy Park Methodist Church on Sunday February 5 where those who’ve been involved with the facility were able to celebrate together.
Over the years, LOFOB has laid a solid foundation in upskilling and training the visually impaired and blind from across the peninsula as well as bringing awareness to their plight.
The facility, which started out as charity, has supported-living for indigent blind people, has implemented a world class Early Childhood Development (ECD) service and a comprehensive Independence Development Programme for youth and adults.
All of this started in 1933 with a duo’s vision for an inclusive school for black and coloured disadvantaged children.
Isaac Jacobs and Reverend Arthur Blaxall officially founded and formed the LOFOB in 1933 and were instrumental in the development of the Athlone School for the Blind in Bellville – which is still in operation today.
Mr Jacobs, himself a blind person, couldn’t attend the only school for blind children in the Western Cape at the time because of segregation during Apartheid.
Mr Jacobs became blind at 17 and could not get a formal education but he was determined in his mission for inclusivity and laid the foundation for LOFOB to become what it is today and to bring services to those who desperately need it.
Speaking on LOFOB’s history, Philip Bam, treasurer and 90th anniversary spokesperson, who has been involved with the organisation for nearly 50 years, said LOFOB’s services are grounded in the belief that blind people should not be excluded from the mainstream society and economy and it therefore moved from a charity to an organisation for development of human potential, empowering blind people to become independent participants in society.
He added the causes of blindness have shifted and many victims of violence including shootings call on LOFOB for services.
Young victims are then assisted to complete their formal schooling, through night school and correspondence.
In an interview Shahiemah Edwards, LOFOB executive director, said it has been an honour to be of service to the sterling organisation.
“It has been a privilege to see the organisation grow to what it is now, having grown from being a small hostel.”
She added that they have great plans for this year and are looking into how the organisation will be ever-evolving.
Leslie Jacobs, 80, son of the late Isaac Jacobs and elected president for LOFOB, said his father would be proud of all LOFOB has achieved over the 90 years.
“My father would be so proud of the commitment of staff, volunteers, donors and sponsors because they do such fantastic work, especially the staff and volunteers,” said Mr Jacobs.
He added that the organisation was started because there was no state support at all for people of colour.
They have survived through raising funds through various means all these years and Covid-19 made fundraising more difficult but he said they are steadfast in their mission to continue the much needed services and work in the peninsula: “We encourage the community to get involved and for companies to come onboard to help us to continue the work and to grow.”
Asked about the future of the organisation, Mr Bam said LOFOB has come through many tribulations including a world war, apartheid discrimination and economic discrimination.
“We survived through it all and we intend to move with the development of technology to continue our work and another important issue we are concentrating on is the prevention of blindness. There are many conditions that can be prevented that cause blindness so we are honing in on bigger education programmes to bring awareness but of course it requires resources so we are hoping.”
Volunteers, sponsors or organisations who would like to know more about what LOFOB has to offer can visit the facility on the corner of Klip Road and First Avenue Grassy Park or contact them on 021 705 3753.