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Sarenia smiles in a head shot

Peer Support Group Creates Opportunities for a Fuller Life

For Sarenia Rathje joining the Regina Peer Support Group, through CNIB Foundation, opened up opportunities to participate more fully in life.

"I am a very outgoing and need to be a busy kind of a person. I like to be around people like myself to give motivation and participate to get motivation and inspiration," said the 51-year-old.

Sarenia has a stem cell deficiency and cataracts in both her eyes which she was born with. When she was young, she could see outlines and shapes but no fine details like leaves. Eventually, she lost the majority of her sight.

"I have found my eye condition frustrating at times. My Grandmother had bad eyes too and even though she has passed, I picture her standing over me looking at me over her glasses, saying, 'Really? You didn't even try, give it a try first. If it is something you really want to do, try it another way and if that doesn't work then, you can say you really tried'."

Learning new ways to do things or adaptations to help with her sight loss is one of the reasons she participates in the Regina Peer Support Group. The other reason is she learns about new activities for people who are blind or partially sighted.

"I get information from the group that I wouldn't hear about if I didn't go to Peer Support Group. I say, to myself, I can do that or I have to give that a try. They give information about CNIB programs too, that's also how I learned about the book club at the library. "

She also heard about the Wascana Park Accessibility Project from the group. CNIB set up more than 230 GPS points around the main walking path in Wascana Park that speak to BlindSquare to help individuals with sight loss to navigate independently. The GPS points highlight path splits, entrances, exits, landmarks, stairs, seating areas, buildings, etc. 

"I love the BlindSquare app in the park. I was able to find a bench because I can't see it. Which I wasn't able to do before. And the app gave me directions and I was able to follow them and move through the park by myself.

But most of all, the group gives Sarenia a place to connect with people who understand being blind and partially sighted and what that experience means. "I am equal. I feel like an equal there."

She would also encourage others who have sight loss to participate in a peer support group.

"Being involved with the peer group is important because it gets you in a positive attitude. I don't want to sit at home and feel sorry for myself. Like my Grandma used to say, it is a choice. You can choose to stay home and feel sorry for yourself or you can make a difference in your life and try."