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Blind Welfare marks milestone with concerts

Thursday, May 8, 2014
Blind Welfare Association CEO Kenneth Suratt is urging the public to support the visually impaired. PHOTO: SHIRLEY BAHADUR

On May 18, the Blind Welfare Association will celebrate 100 years since it first opened its doors in T&T. 


In honour of this milestone, the association will host Jewels of the Evening 2, a two-concert series featuring talent from the blind and visually-impaired community. 


The two concerts take place on May 17 and 18 at the Naparima Bowl, San Fernando and at Napa, Port-of-Spain, respectively.


This is the second year for the concert series which is under the patronage of the President’s wife, Reema Carmona. The theme of the centenary celebrations is Empowerment and Inclusion of Blind Persons in Society. 


The Blind Welfare Association first came into being on May 18, 1914, and was started by a Guyanese immigrant, James Alves.


In the run-up to the celebrations, the T&T Guardian sat down with the Association’s CEO, Kenneth Suratt, to learn how the association has evolved over the years.


Suratt said in the beginning, there was a dormitory facility for blind boys and girls at the institution and Alves taught them Braille and basket weaving. The handicraft made at the institute was sold to buy food for the members.


Today, he says, blind people have come a long way from the days when they were shunned by society and limited to only tasks such as basket-weaving. 


“Blind people have gone to school, educated themselves, started families and are leading productive lives in society.”


Suratt said advances in technology provide more avenues for success for the visually impaired. 


“Despite being completely blind, I operate my own office,” said Suratt. “This is only possible through the advances in technology such as text-to-speech conversion.”


He said these advancements mean that blind people can interact more with the world of work and has encouraged more visually-impaired people to enrol at universities across the country.


Suratt, who is a recognised performer in his own right, says he will sit out this year’s concert, as he looks forward to younger performers showcasing their talents.


He said the bill for Jewels of the Evening 2 includes some popular blind personalities from T&T’s music industry.


Local chutney sensation, Asha Kamachee, will perform a chutney song and act as one of the MCs for the events. Kamachee started singing in public at the age of 13, when she appeared on the popular television show, Mastana Bahar. 


David Mathews is a presenter on Wack 90.1 FM and he is due to perform his rendition of John Legend’s chart-topping hit All Of Me. Mathews became blind at the age of seven, began playing music when he was 14 and has been a broadcaster for over 20 years. 


Kern Tysen, a sports commentator on the gospel radio station Isaac 98.1FM, will act as an MC and is expected to perform a gospel song. 


Suratt said audiences can also look forward to salsa dancing from the T&T Blind Welfare Association Dance group, which comprises eight blind dancers. 


“All in all, it will be two nights of entertainment and fun,” he said. 


Suratt is urging the public to support the Association by attending the concerts.



Tickets for Jewels of the Evening 2 are priced at $100 and can be obtained at the Blind Welfare Association offices at 121 Coffee Street, San Fernando, and 118 Duke Street, Port-of-Spain. 


Call 652-2079, 624-1613, 681-6963.


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