EVEN though she became visually impaired at age 14 through a botched surgery, Dawn Benjamin, now 46, has not given up on her dream of becoming an educator for children with special needs.
“Back then as a teenager, I had to cope with several challenges so as to adjust from being sighted to becoming visually impaired. So, I want to help, especially the children to become adjusted, so that they can quickly fulfil their aspirations,” she told the Guyana Chronicle.
Dawn, who lives at Sandvoort Village, West Canje Berbice, is taking steps to realise her dream, having secured five passes at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate examinations, and is currently pursuing a certificate in Early Childhood Development with the Board of Industrial Training.
On completion, she intends to pursue learning at the Cyril Potter College of Education and the University of Guyana.
“Learning online has its challenges. But my lecturers are very patient with me as I am now learning how to use some of the platforms, especially Moodle. With respect to attending classes at CPCE, I prefer an online tutorage as I have my mother to care for,” she said.
Recalling her earlier years, Dawn had just entered Third Form at the Berbice High School when she was diagnosed with an eye infection. She received treatment at the New Amsterdam Hospital but her condition showed no sign of improvement.
As a result, her father took her to Georgetown, where another ophthalmologist examined her condition and opted to perform minor surgery on both eyes.
“After the surgery my sight deteriorated. It was Dr Alphonso who recognised that the surgery had damaged the corneas. According to him, the surgeries were unnecessary. That’s when I got blind. I was just 14 going into 15. Thereafter, I lived a secluded life until 2001 when I joined a sightless group in Georgetown, where my confidence was regained,” Benjamin said.
She added: “I had to get up and get. I could not wallow in pity. I had to learn to do things for myself. So, I learnt craft and thereafter computing, having accessed the JAWS programme.”
JAWS is a computer screen reader programme for Microsoft Windows that allows blind and visually impaired users to read the screen either with a text-to-speech output or by a refreshable Braille display.
“I have since earned a certificate and I am now au fait with some aspects of computing. I had wanted to pursue Computer Science at the Adult Education Association (AEA) level. But because of the stigma associated with disability, I did not get to pursue that dream,” she said.
Despite being visually impaired, Benjamin has no regrets.
“I am proud of my achievements. I can do all things. I cook. I bake. I wash… I care for my mother. The only thing that brings fear is walking the streets alone with my white cane,” she said, as she erupted with laughter.