By Jacqui Jentzema

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Following our peer mentoring course earlier this year, which we covered in the last edition of Blind Citizens News, BCA also ran a leadership course for a select group of members.

Like the peer mentoring course, this was facilitated by Naomi Barber, who gathered resources for the participants to use and invited a variety of expert presenters from a wide range of fields to give us the benefit of their experience. Naomi did a wonderful job at providing the material and facilitating the sessions. She was extremely personable, and always eager to offer assistance.

The peer mentoring course was essentially in a tutorial format, giving us the tools to support someone else in a given part of their lives. Having a wide range of course members gave all of us a view into how we had dealt with different issues in varying ways.

The leadership course was staged similarly, but as well, we were broken up into two separate teams and assigned two very different projects that had a start time and a completion date. These were real projects with real outcomes. Problems inevitably arose, and it was up to us to find solutions.

As I was a member of the Victorian team, I can only write with that team’s project as a reference. We were required to promote a come-and-try day for a running group named Achilles Melbourne, a group which connects people who are blind or vision impaired with sighted guides who enjoy running or walking around the Tan Park, adjacent to the Royal Botanical Gardens. Achilles also runs strength training on Wednesday nights, and this was made available as part of the event. It was taken up by our editor, Jonathan Craig, and myself.

We conducted most of our event planning via teleconference, due to the distances involved between members. On the Saturday night before the event, we went out as a group for dinner to get to know each other in person, and prepare for the busy morning ahead. By utilising existing networks and further expanding on those through the use of social media and radio programs, we were able to reach a large audience, resulting in a good turn-out for the day. I believe the Achilles organisers were extremely happy with the result.

After some research, I discovered that Achilles doesn’t exist in Bendigo, where I live, so I plan to establish a branch here if there is suitable interest. The Melbourne division would like to get an Achilles group started by training guides in person.

The president of Achilles Melbourne, Amanda Kwong, has volunteered to do that herself. Park Run, a global club that does exist here, has offered assistance. Several members of our leadership group would like to help out as well, and others have provided networking ideas.

To summarise, we all found the course to be of great value and would like to see it run again should the funds be made available. Paul Donaldson, one of the participants, wrote to the course email group to reflect on our teamwork. “Thank you all for your amazing efforts in making the event such a success. We worked well together as a team, some of us drawing on our strength and some of us finding strengths we may not have known we had.”

“Finally, a big thank you to Naomi for all her hard work throughout the leadership course and to BCA for the opportunity for all of us to be part of this amazing program.”

Ross de Vent, who works for Description Victoria, wrote about what he gained personally from the course: “I feel like I have learnt something from each of you on how to deal with being a blind citizen in Australia. It is not that we have the same perspective, we do not. It is that we learn from each other and work on things together that makes BCA relevant.”

“I think that the momentum we have built as leaders, not only for ourselves, but the future of BCA is fantastic. To take advantage of this momentum, throughout our leadership journey together, I hope we have all developed a sense of deep commitment to BCA. I know I have.”

Speaking from my own perspective, I have met some lovely people, and made new friends. I have learned much, and look forward to putting that newly acquired knowledge into practice.

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