Course name: Virtual Emergency Support Guide to Visually Impaired
This is a part of a series of courses with certification in association with Mitra Jyothi institute for Blind and other leading institutes. This course will help you learn how to assist someone who is blind or visually impaired as phone buddy in emergency situation such as COVID19.
Three batches have been completed till September 2020. To learn about upcoming sessions, write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Advisory Board includes illustrious volunteers and Institutions as below:
USA: Run Bionic, Intelligent Performance Clinic, San Diego
USABA, Marathon National Championships, California
Team with A Vision, Boston Marathon
Bangalore : Mitra Jyothi
Delhi :National Association For The Blind
Ahmedabad: Blind People’s Association
Hyderabad: Devnar Foundation for the blind
Mumbai: All India Andh Stri Hitt Association (AIASHA)
Pune: Mai Bal Bhavan (2019), The Poona School & Home for the Blind girls
Guide/Buddy provide confidential, reliable support that helps individuals who are blind or visually impaired lead the complete, rich, joyful lives they want to live. Guides are matched one-to-one and assist with emergency support activities during COVID19 crisis such as keeping track of elderly visuallyimpaired who are stranded and alone. Guide/Buddy may also be matched as sighted guides for fitness or community activities, thereby opening new doors and opportunities.
Each guide/buddy is thoroughly interviewed, screened, undergoes a thorough background check, and is trained by our experienced GUIDES.
Examples of activities include:
Supporting the elderly VisuallyImpaired,Well Being Check, Serving as sighted guides for running, walking, and home workouts
More details will be provided by email on enrollment!
Boston Marathon 2019…an incredible experience… for each one who attempted. Out of the 9 International Full Marathons I completed since 2015…. this was the most enriching episode in my running journey, since this was my first international marathon as an official guide runner, and more so because it was to Erich Manser, my fellow IBMer and fellow marathoner.
I was just recovering from my first ultra – marathon 145 km, with shin injury after me, where 6 of my visually impaired mentees successfully finished the run in January this year, when I received the confirmation about the Boston marathon guide running. Nervousness clouded me soon after the confirmation, but I took up the challenge realizing that this will be the most important milestone in my guide running experience and for bringing home more awareness in this area. I have mentored a number of visually impaired athletes and their guides for long distance running and simultaneously have run many races as a guide runner myself. But this race event was and will always be a special one. After all this was the world renowned Boston Marathon and also I knew Erich not only as a fellow IBMer, but as the World Champion Iron man and my excitement was at its peak since the day I registered as official sighted guide.
Like Erich already quoted in his blog, yes we were those virtual friends of the Hi – Hello kind, meeting online occasionally over work. But when Erich learnt about my initiatives of mentoring the visually impaired and sighted guides in Bangalore, my volunteering as a Head Coach Pinkathon Training, Samarthanam Trust to the Disabled and Mitra Jyothi Institute for the Blind,for supporting the underprivileged as a part of ‘See from the Heart’ initiative, he regularly lent his invaluable advice in all my endeavours. We occasionally had telephonic discussions about how to exploit technology for accessibility. The pieces of advice from Erich have always been so priceless for he has his own set of experiences as a Technology savvy marathon runner and therefore has so much of cognizance to share.
I met Erich face to face for the first time in Boston when we picked up the race kit.
Impage:Athletes with Disability Bib pickup
Guide and Blind Bib collection with Erich
We did the Shakeout run a day before race and we gelled together so quickly. During the run we discussed preferred usage of tether. By using a tether – a short hooped cord – both runners are connected at the hand to negotiate the course.
We also discussed that the run will be at conversation pace. Other things included race day weather and gear, water station stops, adjustments to the tether and about how to carry out effective communication during the run, how to deal with crowded sections of the run etc.
I further got to spend more time with him and the other athletes at a team dinner and team brunch organized by ‘Team With A Vision’
It was a marathon information session as well as stage for the other athletes to share their previous race experiences. We were given tips on race, guide running and logistics. The heart- warming get-together helped clear pre-race doubts and fears.
The transport arrangements to the venue, special temperature controlled area at the start point, the post – race bags pickup and arrangements at VIP tent; IBM and NBC media representatives to interview us at finish line,’Team With A Vision’ volunteers to guide, every arrangement so orderly.
I knew last year was extreme weather with rain and severe cold and it made me more nervous to see forecast had showers again this year. My acclimatization runs in Boston prior to the race, helped me get settled in. Being prone to cough and cold, I took special precaution with intake of immunity boosters like vit c etc. Prior to the race, I did a marathon bus tour to familiarize myself with the route.and prepared for the changing weather conditions, with water resistant as well as cold resistant running gear.
Two day prior to full marathon, enjoyed a rainy weather Boston 5K with my daughter and husband.
The route and the weather during the Boston Marathon really made the run more arduous, but I could clearly see how prepared Erich was. The tough ascents, mercurial weather with rain at the outset followed by hot sun and later thunderstorms did not seem to affect him at all. Though the rains in the last few kilometres masked the sweltering heat, the steep ascents were difficult for me. Hills are a total ‘No No’ for me when it comes to the latter part of a race. But as Erich and I had discussed earlier, we took a conservative approach and slowed down. The Heartbreak hill ascent after 25 km was darn cruel on the quads, but Erich motivated me and I overcame the difficulty. Later when Erich encountered fatigue after mile 23, it was my turn to encourage him. Thus with good mutual rhythm we pulled through the tough route and picked up pace near the finish line. Chatting all the way, cracking jokes and boosted up by the crowds and fellow runners cheering, “Team Vision go! ““Erich and Bhumika, you guys rock!!!” all the way through the route, my family and friends from India cheered loud close to finish line, made our finish so easy but emotional.
In my years of training the visually impaired and running as a guide to them, there have been numerous anecdotes to tell, numerous incidents, happenings. But none of them can beat the fantastic experience of Boston marathon. Running apart, there was great encouragement from my workplace IBM and colleagues across the world sent amazing messages of support.It was a great learning experience. I have been reading Erich’s blog about his experiences at the Boston Marathon over and over again; he ends it with citing and I too would reiterate the same, “Kindness is a very powerful thing. Though we are from very different places, we will now be forever joined by kindness”.
Rightly said, the only thing that is constant is change. But I’d like to add to it. Drastic changes in life only happen if you keep working towards your goals tirelessly.
Hi, I am Bhumika Patel, 44; Global Program Manager – Cybersecurity at IBM.
I started running in 2009, but it was since 2013 that my running career flourished. I represented India at World Master Athletics Championships in Brazil. I participated in first Pinkathon with 3000 women from my company winning the Award for Best Corporate participation-IBM, Maximum Participation from a corporate – IBM and won my first Pinkathon 5k (individual) and corporate 5k team winner. With the same awards in 2014, this time with 2000 women from IBM; I also won the first prize in 21 k and the Hero of Pinkathon award. This continued in 2015, when I completed my First International at London Marathon and made yet another 21k podium at Pinkathon. This was when I began volunteering for Pinkathon Training with Milind Soman’s encouragement and soon as Headcoach for the Blind People’s Association Ahmedabad, Devnar School For Blind-Hyderabad, Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled and Mitra Jyoti Institute for Blind, and several homes for visually impaired across India.
Today I lead corporate/women running teams in various locations across India.
In 2015 I completed my First International at London Marathon. In between the hard training days, I would try to adjust my give back to these women and kids, which I found very challenging at start but gradually I settled down into a routine. I found it very satisfying to encourage and support cancer survivors and visually impaired to run. And happiness reaches its zenith when they scale kilometres or cross the marathon finish lines.
While training non-runner women is not an easy task, training visually impaired girls from an underprivileged background can be more challenging. In 2016, I started training the visually impaired and alongside started conducted separate Guide runners’ trainings which later shifted to Cult centers across the city as workshops to sensitize about challenges faced by the visually impaired with techniques to guide them, as a part of Pinkathon training. We had to ensure a strong back up of volunteers from among the Pinkathon training girls and corporate/running community for coordination, pick up, drop, running gear collection, distribution-storage, correspondence like emails, leave applications from offices or colleges of the visually impaired, crew support during training/races etc. Amidst all this, I completed several global marathons- London, Berlin, Copenhagen,Tokyo,Chicago,Frankfurt within 4hrs.
Thus the visually impaired training resulted in stupendous team work by empowered women. My work with Pinkathon Training was recognised internationally and I was voted as GameChangers2017 ’21 Women who are transforming the world through Running’ by Women’s Running Magazine USA in 2017.
The team have evolved and become more organised and self driven over the years. There is a lot I have learnt in my journey of training the visually impaired. In spite of varying degrees of vision loss, these young girls and boys have not a thing to sulk about. The girls saw a significant improvement in fitness and timings improved over the previous runs at Pinkathon. Running workshops were conducted on running, strength training and recovery with guiding techniques and sensitization, at Cult centers across the city for men and women both, as there was growing demand to become guides. This was a major activity carried out simultaneously with visually impaired training. There was active participation from corporates and the project Received the India South Asia Outstanding Volunteer Work 2018 Award by IBM along with Grants.
These achievements were noted by media and Blind institutes contacted me after listening to news in All India Radio broadcast news for Blind and many more visually impaired were encouraged to join.
In July 2018, 15 visually impaired runners were selected from among 25 to train for the half and the full marathon on Oct 21th at Bengaluru. We started taking the necessary steps in a jiffy like conducting their blood tests, their physical assessments, planning out their workout regimen and diet charts as per their report analyses. Me and Milind already knew their grit and after witnessing their enthusiasm and achievements and in early 2018 decided that the runners who complete the full marathon will be trained for the Spirit of Pinkathon run from Mysuru to Bengaluru which is roughly 145 km. What happened in the 6 months of training, is something I will treasure for a lifetime. The guide team and the doctors kept on their toes to make sure the runners complete the runs as per plan, free of any pain or injury. There were moments of fun, laughter, pain, difficulties. The tough times always started from bringing the visually impaired to a central venue in the morning wee hours, three to four times a week. It was astonishing to see how the girls and boys actively attended trainings and later then their office/college with the same amount of enthusiasm. On Pinkathon Day/October 21, 2018, History was created as India Book of Records awarded a certificate to 23 year old visually impaired girl Suneetha N D, who became the first visually impaired girl in India to finish a full marathon (42.2km)
There were a lot many write ups, news articles, videos and interviews posted on various platforms about this event which happened from 23rd to 25th January 2019. I was stupefied by the tremendous love and appreciation by the country. Karnataka Olympic Association for the reward and the department of youth services rewarded the athletes at the finish line! And thank you Pinkathon and Milind Soman for a grand commendation. Their generous gesture will be a prime motivation not only for them but also for numerous athletes pursuing their dreams in sports. I am invited by the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired to run as Official Guide at the upcoming Boston Marathon 2019 and its a significant milestone in bringing International exposure and expertise to help the athletes with a brighter future!