How the “Dinner in the Dark” left a lesson for the participants about the life of persons with visual impairment

On November 9, 2022,  in the context of the international white cane day,2022, the Rwanda Union of the Blind (RUB) in collaboration with  MTN-Rwanda  organized a special event called “The Dinner in the Dark” with the aim of   raising awareness on the significance of the white cane; and advocate for the recognition and respect for the rights of persons with visual impairment as productive members of society and their inclusion in employment.

This event was preceded by a  white cane demonstration  march from Rubangura in the city of Kigali to downtown attended by different people including public figures including musicians, journalists among others where they participated in a street challenge by crossing the street with white canes and being blindfolded.

This was done as part of a campaign to  raise awareness on the role of white cane, acknowledge the independence and mobility of persons with visual impairment  and advocate for their inclusion  in mainstream society  for them to be able to access services  and transportation on an equal basis with others.

After the street challenge, people from different backgrounds  including ministers, members of parliament, UN agencies representatives, bank managers among other people met in a Dinner  in the Dark at Kigali Marriott Hotel where everyone spent more than three hours without using their eyes as usual.

It is an event organized by  MTN Rwanda in close collaboration with  the Rwanda Union of the Blind (RUB). The event was organized as part of the the celebration of the International white cane day,2022 which was celebrated under the theme’’ the white cane, respect and dignity  for the visually impaired people.’’

The invited guests arrived at the Kigali Marriott Hotel where they were blindfolded  and given a white cane to experience the life of persons with visual impairment.

They could walk to the place where the dinner was prepared, with the help of a white cane that is usually used by  blind and visually impaired people.

It was a difficult situation for many because they are used to walking freely, just because they were determined to do it, they used the white canes and enjoyed the dinner  under the guidance of facilitators with visual impairment.

This is where everyone who has done this exercise has been surprised to see a person with a visual impairment guiding him/her to the right place to sit safely.

All the activities that took place were conducted in total darkness.

They even went to eat in this way hence they considered the white cane to be of great value.

After spending more than three hours interacting with the visually impaired, the participants acknowledged that they have learnt a lot from  the life of the visually impaired and also saw the value of the white cane.

Rwanda’s  Minister of ICT and Innovation, Ms Ingabire Paula who participated in the event and experienced the dinner in the dark, said that it was difficult to believe that they were able to pass the challenge.

Minister Paola said that she had time to think about the lives of people with visual impairment  while being blindfolded over her face.

The CEO of MTN Rwanda, Mapula Bodibe, said that this is a great exercise that should be a lesson for all people, putting themselves in the place of the Visually Impaired Persons, and helping them get a white cane so that they can walk safely.

The CEO of Irembo, Israël Bimpe, said that this is an important lesson for various institutions, that they should create ways to help the visually impaired to access services.

The participants of this event, after realizing that they would not be able to do anything if they did not have a white cane, decided to do something to reach more people with disabilities.

Companies and individuals donated as much as they can, and 250 white canes will be collected, which will be given to blind and visually impaired  people around the country who cannot afford them.

MTN’s Director of Partnership, Alain Numa said that this event was organized for them to do advocacy and help Rwanda Union of the Blind to fundraise for white canes  to support the visually impaired persons who can not easily afford white canes on their own.

He said, “This is the week dedicated to the white cane. We have supported RUB through this event so that people can share dinner, but put themselves in the shoes of those who are visually impaired.”

“The reason was advocacy, the other was to collect white canes to donate them because they are expensive and not everyone with visual impairment can afford it.” He added.

RUB president, Dr. Mukarwego Nasiforo Beth, praised MTN for supporting RUB and  organizing such an impressive  event.

She said, “I am very happy, I want to thank MTN for supporting this event and allowing people to experience how we live every day. I want to thank the people who donated the white canes because these are the eyes of the blind, they have made a great contribution to our lives.”

She went on to say that people who have gone through the challenge, now that they have seen the obstacles that  persons with visual impairment face and that it will then be easier  for them  to understand and  support persons with visual impairment.

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