My name is Alexis Folk, and I am your proud host of the Meeting Mighty People Podcast!
Today I am pleased to introduce Shawn Marsolais, Executive Director and founder of
the Blind Beginnings organization!
Blind Beginnings is an organization that is dedicated to supporting children and youth who are blind or partially sighted and their families.
They have many camps, including:
a youth leadership camp,
a fashion show and
creating confidence camp.
The Blind Beginnings organization was founded in 2008 and their mission is to:
inspire children and youth who are blind or partially sighted and their families, by providing diverse programs, experiences, counseling and peer support, and opportunities for them to create fulfilling lives.
I am excited to learn more about Blind Beginnings because I recently found out that I have low vision and am partially sighted.
It sounds like a great organization.
Let’s start the show.
Alexis Hello Shawn,
Shawn hello” Alexis nice to meet you Shawn yes you too Alexis” Thanks for the great introduction you definitely did your research.
Shawn, can you please tell us a bit about yourself.
Sure I was born with an eye condition called retinitis pigmentosa. Must have been challenging not knowing you were diagnosed with an eye condition. Shawn replied yes I wore glasses because I thought it was normal. when I was younger because I could kinda see I had about 2% of my vision when I was a youth. As I grew up in life I started to progressively lose more eyesight until I eventually became blind.
I didn’t know I had an eye condition until age 12
I was diagnosed when I was 5 years of age. I am today a Non profit organization leader and a registered counselor. “So I consider myself a very multi capable person”
- Shawn can you tell us about some of the barriers you have faced living as a person who is blind?
The biggest limit I faced in life when I was young was my own attitude and outlook on my limits as a youth diverse needs. Although there’s still misconceptions out there in the world about the amazing perspective and qualities people with diverse abilities have to offer.
- Tell us about what inspired you to create a whole organization that is dedicated to supporting people who are blind or partially sighted?
Partly I think it was my own experiences with growing up being blind and seeing my limits and not focusing on the limitless potential opportunities I have ahead of me that inspired me to create an organization dedicated to people with vision loss.
- Shawn, I am interested in creating an organization for people with all types of disabilities, but specifically cerebral palsy.
I literally googled it and followed the directions in my own way. It mentioned I needed to become a society and have 5 or more board members.
Now today we have 11 Blind Beginnings board members and 4 full time staff supporting people and programs.
What was the process like creating Blind Beginnings?
It was an interesting process Alexis. I always wanted to create an organization supporting individuals who are blind or partially sighted. This was a particular goal of mine because of my life growing up with only 2% of my vision. The process was interesting Shawn indicated that it was interesting because prior to creating Blind Beginnings she was a blind paralympic runner and she worked at a school for the blind. From what she learned and seen at the school. She realized that blind people have limitless opportunities like everyone else. Shawn’s Blind Beginnings programs today really focuses on empowering youth who are blind or partially sighted. To live their lives to the fullest!
- Tell us where do you envision Blind Beginnings going in the future?
I eventually want to be able to support everyone with a vision imparied in this province I would more staff spread out across BC so this is my future plan for Blind Beginnings. That I will accomplish soon hopefully.
Alexis That sounds fabulous, you’re after my own heart!
Eventually in the near future I see myself going to school for Physiatry or psychology, then potentially create a group that meets up with youth with disabilities and educate them on how the mind and body works.
- Tell us about your role being the Executive Director and founder of Blind Beginnings?
Founder is just a fancy name for the creator of Blind Beginnings. I am very proud of holding this name. I love the role of helping people so I recently hired a co founder named Lia so my title recently changed to director coordinator of programs
- Shawn I am gathering information on my interviewees’ preferred language when referring to their disability.
For instance, some people prefer person first language, like “Alexis has Cerebral Palsy.” Others don’t mind being referred to as a disabled person.
Would you mind sharing your thoughts on this topic with us please?
I want to reclaim the word Bind so I am perfectly oj
- Speaking about language, why do you choose to use the words “partially sighted” instead of “partially blind”?
- Shawn, I have heard that you have upcoming youth leadership opportunities.
I am wondering what is the program like and what does a youth leader do for Blind Beginnings ?
- Shawn, there is a fashion show coming up in October. Can you tell us a little bit about this?
- Shawn, This is my last question. What do you think makes a mighty person?
With gratitude, thank you for allowing me to interview you today. I really appreciate you coming on my show.
Thank you, Shawn, for the interview.
Until next time, this is the host of the Meeting Mighty People Podcast, signing off.