After 45 years of existence, the Saint Lucia Blind Welfare Association (SLBWA) has said that it may be forced to close down due to financial constraints.
The SLBWA was established in 1972 by an act of parliament to provide education and vocational training, employment, and assist generally with the provision of social and other services for blind and visually-impaired people.
Eye-screening, the provision of low-cost eye glasses, and prevention of blindness are also aims of the association.
SLBWA Executive Director Anthony Avril said that of late, the association has been struggling to keep afloat. According to him, about 80 percent of the SLBWA’s services are free of charge.
“Unfortunately the St. Lucia Blind Welfare Association, at this point, is in serious financial problem. Of course, we have been saying so to the public for some time. We have been trying our best to keep the services afloat and doing our best to continue to serve St Lucians who are in need of the services but we’re at the point where we cannot continue providing the services without significant help from the community,” he told HTS News4orce.
“At the end of each month we are struggling to meet the commitment and for this month of July we’re not sure how we’re going to address the commitments. So we’re looking at drastically curtailing the services by putting people on rotation…By the end of the day, we just can’t continue the services if we do not have the means to do so. So that’s the problem and that’s what we wanna communicate to St. Lucians – that there is a real strong possibility that the St Lucia Blind Welfare Association will not be around to continue to provide the services that they have been providing,” he stated.
The executive director said that in an effort to raise some funds, the association will launch a national dollar-drive in August, “but the situation is hard. It is bleak. Eighty percent of the association’s services are being given free and it’s just not possible to continue to operate under the pressure.”
Avril said that if something is not done, the association could be forced to close within three months, which could leave residents without essential eye care services.
Though the government provides an annual subvention to the SLBWA, the association provides hundreds of thousands of dollars in free eye services each year.