Farewell but not Goodbye

We at SAMBT wish our Managing Trustee: Ian Hutton, well in his retirement.

Read here below in Ian’s own words, why he is looking forward to every day being Sunday.

Ian leaves behind an organisation with clear goals, that is financially sound and with a team of committed staff members. Through Ian’s efforts, nearly 4 500 blind people nationally, have gained independence.

Parishna Ramluckan has been appointed as our new Managing Trustee.  She was selected by the SAMBT board, after an extensive recruitment process. Parishna, like Ian studied law at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and like Ian, she is also blind.

We appreciate Ian’s ongoing passion and interest for the work we do and he will be available to Parishna for mentoring and support as needed for a period. The board invited Ian to become an ordinary Trustee. We are grateful to our wonderful board for their commitment to SAMBT.

And so here in Ian’s own words…

There I was, approaching seventy.  Or was seventy approaching me?  I’ll never know.  Either way, I knew that the time was right for me to …? Yes!  Retire. 

“But why?”  someone asks me.  And she is older than I am. 

“Because,” I say, “it would be irresponsible of me to drop dead on the job.” 

But let’s go back.  Who am I anyway? 

Well, I’m Ian Hutton, for what that’s worth, and back in 1998, at the age of forty something, I was sitting there and wondering what I’d like to be when I grow up.  And then it came to me, when I was talking about what I should do next. 

“You know what?” I said.  “We must take white cane training to people who wouldn’t get it otherwise.  People in rural areas.  People in townships.  Anywhere and everywhere in the country.  We must be like Doctors Without Borders.  We must be Mobility Without Borders.”

And so it was that SAMBT was born. SAMBT stands for South African Mobility for the Blind Trust.  And if I had my life over again, I would have given it a simpler and easier to remember name.  But there you go.  You can’t have it all. 

From then on, we have gone out looking for blind people rather than expecting them to find us.  And there they were in Kuruman and Priska in the Northern Cape; in the sprawling townships of Katlehong and Tembisa in Gauteng; in Tshidilamolomo village next to the Botswana border and the deeply potholed township beside the little dorp of Ottosdal.  And there they were in Manguzi Northern KZN, where a mamba can stand up in front of you, taller than you are, and keep you riveted to the spot for twenty minutes, eyes shut and praying.  And then there are those children at schools for the blind.  Many of them, too many, leave their school gates for the last time with not a day of O&M training to their name. 

And so it was and so it is that our Practitioners go to those places and to those schools, bringing with them the gift of O&M Training.  To do this they live and work away from home for much of the year.  They are my heroes. 

But now the time is ripe for me to hang up my white cane and to wake up every morning thinking it’s Sunday.  But for a long time, I will hear the voices of those people we have trained saying things like,, “I feel human again,” or say to one of our Practitioners, “When I went blind, I prayed every day for help.  And then you came, like an angel from God.” 

What can I say?  Well, maybe just this.  It’s all been a damn sight more fulfilling than running a pencil factory. 

But now the question that’s on all your lips.  Who is taking over from me? 

Her name is Parishna Ramluckan.  She will do a fantastic job.  I know it.  When she told me that she was very nervous about filling my shoes, I said, ‘Don’t worry, I’m only size nine.  That seemed to help.  You will all meet her in due course. 

But wait!  Just in case you think that I am about to go up in a puff of smoke, you might like to know that the SAMBT Board has asked me to stay on as an ordinary member.  Of course I will.  It’s better than collecting stamps, don’t you think?