ADVOCACY, Education

Empowering the Blind through knitting: The Success Story of Irafasha Edison

Irafasha Edison, a 23-year-old from Gatsibo District, found himself facing a new reality when he lost his sight in 2016. However, his journey at Masaka Resource Center for the Blind (MRCB) is transformative; thanks to the knitting training, he received.

Before coming to MRCB, Irafasha had finished his studies up to secondary school. But it was at the center that he learned valuable skills and gained confidence in his abilities. “This institution creates people to be able to accept themselves in new situations, to accept themselves, to get out of isolation,” he shared.

During his 5 months at the center, Irafasha learned to knit seven different types of items, including pullovers, hats, and children’s shorts among others. The Rwanda Union of the Blind (RUB) played a crucial role in his journey, providing support and fostering a sense of community among blind individuals.

“The role of RUB is very big because I am getting skills in this centre. Since I got here, I started to adapt to different things,” Irafasha expressed.

 With the skills he has acquired, he is now ready to compete in the labor market and contribute to his family and society.

“The knowledge I gain from this Knitting program will not only benefit me personally, but also society as a whole. I am motivated to make the most of this opportunity and utilize my newfound skills to generate income and contribute positively to the community.” He added.

Reflecting on the obstacles faced by the blind and persons with disability in society, Irafasha emphasized the importance of raising awareness about their capabilities. “What I would like personally is for our government, parents, and those who have responsibility in general to raise awareness in the community that people with disabilities are also capable of doing jobs like others,” he stated.

Through determination and the support of organizations like RUB through the Masaka Resource Center for the Blind (MRCB), Irafasha Edison is proving that blindness does not define one’s abilities.

The center was founded by the Rwanda Union of the Blind (RUB) in the year 2000. This came about after realizing that most blind people in Rwandan communities were not living life to the fullest due to disability. Most of them were living in isolation, always at home without participation in family and community activities. As such Masaka Resource Centre for the Blind was born to address this challenge.

Trainees who are accommodated at the center receive training in Orientation and Mobility, Activities of Daily living, Braille Literacy, Farming or Agriculture and Animal Husbandry, among other courses. Very recently, knitting and massage therapy components were also introduced as vocations to be learnt by those who complete the rehabilitation program but still interested in other vocations.

In addition to this, they are also taught some skills on reproductive health, advocacy and human rights to help them find themselves into the mainstream society.

From the inception of the center in the year 2000 to date, 986 persons with visual impairment from different district of the country have received training in independent living skills from to enable them to live as normal a life as any other person

The success stories from Masaka Center are inspiring, with graduates going on to start their own businesses, work in government agencies and international organizations, or pursue careers in knitting among others. However, challenges remain, such as the lack of start-up tool kits and support for individuals entering the job market after completing their rehabilitation Programs.

According to Mukeshimana Jean Marie Vianey, the Director of Masaka Resource Center for the Blind (MRCB), “Advocacy efforts are underway to garner support for Masaka Center, the only facility in the country dedicated to the rehabilitation of persons with visual impairment.”

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