Blind youth on shortlist for global award

Tafadzwa with laptop and microphone presenting his national radio show

By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
05 June 2014

A visually-impaired youth has been shortlisted for an international award for his work training blind people to use computers without assistance.

Thirty-year-old Tafadzwa Nyamuzihwa joins three other male nominees from across the world on the shortlist for the Hermann Gmeiner Award. The accolade is named after the founder of humanitarian charity SOS Children’s Villages.

The award recognises individuals who have been cared for at SOS as children and who are making a difference in their communities. Taffy was raised at the charity’s Waterfalls-based village in Harare, after he was found abandoned aged just four.

Growing up Taffy says he was taught to be independent and that while other people are there to assist him, the effort to succeed has to come from him.

It is this attitude that sustained him when in May 2009, aged 25, he lost his sight, an experience which he says was so traumatic that he lost 12kgs in just one week.

But after the shock was over Taffy said he pulled himself up and decided that he would not let the depression and the blindness get the better of him.

“The first step involved acquiring the skills that a person with a disability needs to live independently. That included basics such as learning to cook and to walk around without help,” Taffy told SW Radio Africa on the Big Picture Programme.

After that, Taffy says it was time for him to re-learn using the computer and a scholarship to study at an institution in India enabled him to do just that.

“It was while I was at the International Institute for Social Entrepreneurs in India that I had the idea to train blind Zimbabweans in the unassisted use of technology.”

That idea led to the launch of the Shine On project in 2012, which has now made it into this year’s Hermann Gmeiner Award shortlist from an initial list of 279.

Winning the grand prize of 5,000 euros (about $7,000) depends on the number of votes each nominee receives and the process closes in two weeks on June 22nd.

So far in his category Taffy has the lowest number of votes but he believes if every Zimbabwean casts their vote, that can change and he will be in with a chance.

Zimbabweans can show their support by voting online

“Winning will be a humbling experience. For me to be recognised for my work is to be motivated to do even more. I don’t think winning necessarily means that someone is the best, but that someone is doing something that other people find useful and worthy.

“The world is changing and I believe it is important for every Zimbabwean with or without a disability to be empowered with the skills they need to confront the complexities of the modern world.

“So every vote cast takes me a step closer to the top spot and I am appealing for everybody to go online and show their support,” Taffy added.

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