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Holman Prize

Help Your Favorite Holman Prize Candidate Advance to the Semifinals

Help Your Favorite Holman Prize Candidate Advance to the Semifinals

Submissions for the 2021 Holman Prize for Blind Ambition have now closed and now you can help your favorite advance to the semifinals as the People’s Choice Semifinalist. The person with the most likes on their YouTube video will automatically advance to the semifinals and have a chance to compete to become a finalist.

Watch the 2021 Holman Prize Candidate Playlist and Vote Today!

Doubly Sweet: Meet the 2019 Holman Prizewinners and Attend a Chocolate Tasting, April 10

Doubly Sweet: Meet the 2019 Holman Prizewinners and Attend a Chocolate Tasting, April 10

Despite the disruptions of COVID-19, the 2019 Holman Prizewinners Mona Minkara, Alieu Jaiteh and Yuma Decaux completed their Holman Prize year in 2020, so it’s time to celebrate their incredible achievements.

On April 10, we will host a chocolate tasting, with Dr. Hoby Wedler who will take you on a journey through the chocolate making process, the delicate nuance of the flavors and other interesting facts. The fine chocolates are provided byQuail Point Chocolates. We’ll also hear from Alieu, Mona and Yuma about their Holman Prize adventures.

If you’d like the chocolate to try along at home, it’s $50 with enough chocolates for two tasters and $75 for a family box.

You can come to this Holman Prize event without the chocolate tasting for free.

The event takes place on April 10 from 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm Pacific Time.

RSVP for Sweetening the Prize: Holman Prizewinner Celebration & Chocolate Tasting.

Holman Prize Applications are Now Open

Holman Prize Applications are Now Open

Have you been dreaming and planning out your pitch for the 2021 Holman Prize for Blind Ambition? Maybe you’ve even already shot your pitch video. Well the time has come: Applications for the 2021 Holman Prize are now open.
 
Haven’t heard about the Holman Prize yet? Here’s more info.
 
Now in it’s fifth year, the Holman Prize for Blind Ambition annually awards up to $25,000 each to three blind people from around the world with incredible ideas that will shatter misconceptions about blindness worldwide. We are thrilled to announce this year that one of the $25,000 prizes is sponsored by one of our close partners, Waymo.

The Holman Prize named after James Holman, a blind 19th century explorer who is the most prolific private traveler of anyone, blind or sighted, before the era of modern transportation.
 
The only qualifications for the Holman Prize are that you must be blind or legally blind and that you must be 18 years old by October 1, 2021.
 
But if you’re not quite ready to upload your 90-second YouTube pitch and fill out the application, there’s no need to worry; applications close on March 14 at 11:59 pm Pacific.

We know just how different applications will need to be during this time of the pandemic. While we recognize this will be a factor for the scope of some peoples’ ideas, we encourage you to think big and imagine your Holman plan without taken the current constraints too much into consideration. We will do everything we can if your idea is successful, to work with you and help you make it happen. Don’t let the pandemic blunt your ambition!
 
Check out our Holman Prize frequently asked questions and if you don’t find your answer there, email us at holman@lighthouse-sf.org
 
Stay tuned for the next two months as we share updates on 2021 submissions and updates from our winners.
 
Spread the word about the Holman Prize and follow Holman Prize on FacebookTwitter and Instagram
 
We can’t wait to watch your videos.

White Cane Day October 15: A Day of Celebration at LightHouse

White Cane Day October 15: A Day of Celebration at LightHouse

LightHouse has a lot to celebrate this Thursday, October 15 which is White Cane Day. This is a day to recognize the presence, equality and achievements of people who are blind or have low vision. In 1964, a joint resolution by the United States Congress was signed into law. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the first White Cane Day proclamation a few hours later.

October 15 also happens to be the birth date of James Holman. Holman is the namesake of LightHouse’s Holman Prize for Blind Ambition, an award given annually to three blind people with ambitious ideas. James Holman was a 19thcentury British explorer who was known as “The Blind Traveler.” Holman was the most prolific private traveler of anyone, blind or sighted, before the era of modern transportation. To learn more about his incredible story, you can read “A Sense of the World” by author Jason Roberts.

Throughout October, we’re offering 10% off white canes and accessories at our Adaptations Store.  You can order white canes and cane accessories on the Adaptations Website, call 1-888-400-8933 or contact the team at Adaptations using the Be My Eyes app on your smart phone.

Finally, end your celebration of White Cane Day with LightHouse’s 30% & Growing Virtual Meetup, a relaxed setting to talk all things blind employment on Thursday from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. This month’s guest is Domonique Lawless, who teaches cane travel at the Virginia Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Vision Impaired and hosts a podcast on the world of blind employment. Contact Serena Olsen at SOlsen@lighthouse-sf.org and let her know you’ll be there.

2020 Holman Prizewinners Announced

2020 Holman Prizewinners Announced

LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired – San Francisco is proud to introduce the three winners of this year’s prestigious Holman Prize competition for Blind Ambition.

The Holman Prize was launched by LightHouse in 2017: awarding three blind individuals up to 25,000 US dollars to fulfill a dream, turn an idea into reality or shoot for an unusual goal. Named after the 19th-century blind explorer James Holman, the first blind person to circumnavigate the globe. He holds the further distinction of being the most prolific traveler in history, sighted or blind, prior to the invention of modern transportation. And it is in the unquenchable spirit of James Holman that this year, 109 blind people from 22 countries, posted their 90 second Youtube pitch to be considered for the Holman Prize.

A panel of thirteen distinguished blind judges carried out the unenviable and difficult task of whittling down the 16 semifinalists to the following three outstanding blind blue-sky thinkers.

Tiffany Brar, India – Age 31

Tiffany Brar

Brar’s Holman ambition is called ‘Reaching the Unreached.’ With the Holman Prize, Brar will expand services for the blind into rural and tribal south India. Brar’s goal is to train more than 300 blind people across four states: Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Karnataka. She hopes to help the teenagers enroll in school and adults participate in either residential training centers for the blind or help them find jobs. Tiffany and a team of special educators will work closely with local leaders, government workers and translators to coordinate training programs for blind youth between the ages of 13 and 35.

Born in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, Brar learned to speak five Indian languages as a child. She received schooling in both Great Britain and India. She completed a degree in English Literature in 2006. She later received a Bachelor of Education in Special Education, Visual Impairment from Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda University.

The Holman Prize judges were impressed first by Tiffany’s comprehensive and passionate 90 second Youtube pitch and then by the detailed and well-planned proposal she presented.

On learning of her success, Tiffany said:

“I am honored. I applied because I am really passionate about rural development and training blind people in their homes as well as in our residential center, so thank you very much for making it happen.”

Tyler Merren, USA – Age 36

Tyler Merren

With his 25,000 USD Holman Prize, Merren will develop ReVision Fitness, an audio-based fitness mobile application.

“While there are many fitness apps out there,” said Merren, “they don’t provide an adequate description of exercises for people who are blind.”

The app will include descriptions of equipment, nutrition, heart rate monitoring, and journal capabilities all in an accessible format.

Merren is a resident of Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he lives with his wife and four children. He is a three-time Paralympian for Team USA in the sport of goalball with two team medals. His love for adaptive sports began in 1999 at a sports education camp hosted by the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes.

“The idea is that if you can do it as a sighted person in another fitness app, I want a blind person to have that in my app and the Holman Prize will make that possible.”

The Holman Prize judging panel loved the idea of many aspects of fitness usually found by painstakingly trying out each app’s usability and accessibility, being available to many blind individuals in the one place, in the one comprehensive app.

Dr. Birendra Raj Sharma Pokharel, Nepal – Age 53

Birendra Raj Sharma Pokharel

Dr. Pokharel’s proposal is entitled:
“Service Above Self: detecting breast cancer by blind women using medical tactile examination.”

He will use the Holman Prize funds to provide training for blind women in Nepal to become Medical Tactile Examiners in the early detection of breast cancer. The new program will provide an employment path for up to 30 blind Nepalese women who traditionally face enormous barriers to employment.

Dr. Pokharel who lives in Patan, Bagmati, has 25 years of experience in disability rights advocacy. He completed his Ph.D. in Rural Development at Tribhuvan University in Nepal.

Breast cancer is the most common disease for Nepalese women particularly in the remote area where outreach health services are lacking. Statistically, Medical Tactile Examiners who are blind can detect up to 30% more nodules than doctors. And the tissue alterations they identify are 50% smaller than those detected by medical professionals.

“I hope that this will raise awareness that women are employed not despite their visual disability, but because of their capability.”

This groundbreaking work was first pioneered in Germany, but this is the first time it is being led by a person who is blind.

LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin said: “This year’s winners will make a huge impact on the lives and experiences of many blind people around the world. The winners each are taking an active role in solving a problem and providing other blind people with tools to have their own agency and lead independent lives. They are all about to embark on a personal journey of self-discovery, learning new skills, and how it feels to truly make a difference.” He went on:

“I’d like to thank the other 106 applicants for applying and encourage them to consider pitching their big ideas to us again next year. I would also like to acknowledge and thank this year’s judges who gave up their time to undertake this difficult judging task, made especially challenging because we weren’t able to meet in person to adjudicate this year.”

For more information or to arrange interviews with the winners or LightHouse spokespeople, please email:
press@lighthouse-sf.org or call +1 (415) 812 5384

About the Holman Prize for Blind Ambition

In 2017, LightHouse for the Blind, headquartered in San Francisco, launched the Holman Prize to support the emerging adventurousness and can-do spirit of blind and low vision people worldwide. This endeavor celebrates people who want to shape their own future instead of having it laid out for them.

Created specifically for legally blind individuals with a penchant for exploration of all types, the Prize provides financial backing – up to $25,000 – for three individuals to explore the world and push their limits.

To see videos of all of our 2020 finalists and learn more about The Holman Prize please go to holmanprize.org.

About LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco

LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is actively seeking sponsorships and support for the Holman Prize, including donations of equipment for the winner’s projects. We actively seek corporate and philanthropic funding for the finalists who we would like to support beyond the three funded winners this year.

To offer your support, contact holman@lighthouse-sf.org.

 

Watch Holman Prizewinner Red Szell’s Documentary

Watch Holman Prizewinner Red Szell’s Documentary

In June 2019, Holman Prizewinner Red Szell successfully completed his extreme blind triathlon, which included a 10-mile off-road tandem bike ride, an open-water swim and a 213-foot climb up Am Buachaille, a vertical rock formation off the coast of Scotland. His journey is chronicled in the documentary short, Shared Vision, which was screened at the Banff Centre Mountain Film + Book Festival on November 2, 2019.

Watch the documentary, with audio description.

 

Red Szell reflects on how the Holman Prize got him to the top of the rock

Red Szell reflects on how the Holman Prize got him to the top of the rock

Each year, the Holman Prize for Blind Ambition, funded by LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco, provides three blind people up to $25,000 each to carry out an ambitious idea. On June 22, 2019, Holman Prize winner Red Szell successfully completed his extreme blind triathlon, which included a 10-mile off-road tandem bike ride, an open-water swim and a 213-foot climb up Am Buachaille, a vertical rock formation off the coast of Scotland. We interviewed Red shortly after his successful climb to get his reflections on training for his Holman Prize adventure.

Red’s triathlon training began in earnest last October. “I had a pretty high level of fitness from climbing and swimming,” Red, age 49, says, “but I had to ramp it up because I would be outside for twelve hours.” Red began incorporating running on a treadmill into his training regimen but injured his right Achilles tendon in January. With the help of twice-weekly physiotherapy sessions and some modifications to his training techniques, Red was able to continue preparing to climb Am Buachaille. Despite the ordeal, Red’s injury ultimately provided some benefits. “It actually helped my climbing because we worked on ankle stability and stretching,” he explained.

Besides the physical training required to successfully complete his Holman Prize goal, Red also had to navigate logistics, such as planning a practice climbing trip to Sardinia, finding a videographer to film the triathlon, getting the tandem bike from London to Scotland and more. “Being the CEO of my own project is something that I never really expected to do,” he admits. “That is a very difficult challenge but also immensely enjoyable and character-building. I feel a genuine sense of achievement and personal growth that has resulted from being awarded a Holman Prize.”

Red has always loved climbing, spending his teenage years climbing in the Welsh mountains in Wales. When he was 20, he was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a progressive condition that eventually causes blindness. As Red’s vision continued changing, he became depressed and stopped climbing. More than twenty years later, Red, now a father and journalist, had learned blindness skills. His passion for climbing was reignited at a birthday party for his daughter at a climbing gym. He decided it was time to learn to climb as a blind man.

In 2013, Red became the first blind man to climb the Old Man of Hoy, another sea stack in Scotland. Red declares that was “a personal achievement.” Successfully climbing Am Buachaille was different, however, because of the scope of the Holman Prize as a worldwide competition. Red remarks that the Holman Prize demonstrates to everyone “what blind people can achieve with the right support and determination.”

Red sitting on a rocky beach at Sandwood Bay, on the far north-west coast of mainland Scotland, with Am Buachaille towering behind him.
Red sitting on a rocky beach at Sandwood Bay, on the far north-west coast of mainland Scotland, with Am Buachaille towering behind him.

Going forward, Red will include his Holman Prize experience in the presentations he gives about being a blind climber, but more importantly, he will encourage other blind people to apply for the Holman Prize. From applying for the prize, to winning it, to carrying it out, Red views the Holman Prize as “a journey of self-discovery.” Listen to Red talk about his harrowing adventure here. Red’s experience will be documented in a forthcoming audio-described documentary of his “Extreme Triathlon” full of Red’s humor and outrageous Scottish scenery, called Shared Vision.

Do you have Holman Prize aspirations? Holman Prize submissions open in January 2020. For more information about the Holman Prize, visit HolmanPrize.org.

Meet Alieu Jaiteh: Holman Prizewinner and Social Entrepreneur

Meet Alieu Jaiteh: Holman Prizewinner and Social Entrepreneur

Alieu Jaiteh is one of three recipients of the 2019 Holman Prize for Blind Ambition. The Holman Prize is awarded annually by LightHouse for the Blind to three blind individuals with ambitious ideas. With his award of $25,000, Alieu will provide blindness skills training to eighty people in rural Gambia.

Born and raised in The Gambia, Alieu became blind shortly after graduating high school. He was interested in being an accountant, but as he explains, “In The Gambia, when you are blind, you have two options: to become a teacher or a beggar. Well, I didn’t want to be a beggar, so I chose to become a teacher.”

After graduating from The Gambia College, Alieu applied and won a scholarship to kanthari international, an institute which provides leadership training for people who want to make social change. His instructors at kanthari were impressed with his work and leadership skills and secured funding to send him to the Louisiana Center for the Blind in the United States. At the Louisiana Center, Alieu learned rehabilitation and technology skills. “I had never cooked for myself before,” he explains.

After experiencing the services and opportunities available to blind people firsthand, Alieu knew that he wanted those same things for blind people in his country. “I said to myself, I have to change the system. I started dreaming and wondering what I could do for myself and all the visually impaired people in The Gambia. That is where the dream of Start Now began.”

Start Now Gambia, founded by Alieu, provides rehabilitation and technology training to blind Gambians. Start Now’s mission is to provide blind people with the training they need to work in a variety of fields. As word spread about his organization, Alieu was met with skepticism. “People said this won’t work. It’s a waste of time,” Alieu explains. Alieu’s response was frank. “This is about changing lives. These are services that are not available here.” Start Now Gambia has continued with the hard work of Alieu and other liked-minded people in The Gambia.

Alieu learned about the Holman Prize for Blind Ambition in 2017. He realized the prize would provide him an opportunity to expand his training outside of the capital of Banjul and into rural Gambia. He applied in 2018 and became a finalist but did not win. In 2019, Alieu considered applying again, but was skeptical about his chance for winning because of the caliber of the competition. Finally, with only two weeks left of the submission period, he applied. When asked what he did differently from the first time he applied, Alieu says, “I wrote a more focused, creative and detailed proposal.”

The Holman Prize is named for James Holman, a blind explorer who was the most prolific traveler of anyone, blind or sighted, before the era of modern transportation. The prize is about shattering misconceptions and changing expectations about what blind people can do. On winning the Holman Prize, Alieu says, “This is an opportunity to transform the lives of blind and partially sighted people in rural Gambia to become confident and independent. This award is a dream come true and obviously a motivating spirit for all my future activities.”

Alieu’s Holman Prize journey began last October. Follow along at HolmanPrize.org or on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Subscribe to the Holman Prize email newsletter by sending a message to holman@lighthouse-sf.org.

A Blindness Conference in Mexico Becomes a Catalyst for Change

A Blindness Conference in Mexico Becomes a Catalyst for Change

From July 26-28, 2019, Holman Prizewinner Conchita Hernandez convened the first-ever blindness conference in Mexico led by blind people for blind kids and their families.

Conchita convened a team of fellow blindness professionals to host the conference she called Cambiando Vidas, or “Changing Lives.”

Held in Guadalajara, the Cambiando Vidas conference included breakout sessions on a variety of topics, including daily living skills, low-cost technology, employment expectations, an introduction to braille and more. 120 people attended the conference, including blind people of all ages, parents of blind children and educational and rehabilitation professionals.

“Many of the people who attended the conference hadn’t been exposed to training techniques and a blindness-positive philosophy,” says Conchita. Conchita describes witnessing the impact that this conference had on attendees. “One parent said she was anxious and upset when her daughter was born blind.” The mother’s views changed during the course of the conference. “Now, she sees the possibilities that there are for her daughter,” Conchita concludes.

Conchita shows a little girl how to use a long white cane at a school in Mexico.]
Conchita shows a little girl how to use a long white cane at a school in Mexico.

Conchita is the chair of Mentoring Engaging and Teaching All Students, or METAS, an organization that works to spread blindness training and advocacy in Mexico. Conchita and her fellow METAS staff hosted the conference this year and are working to secure funding to host the conference again. Conchita, however, has a long-term dream for the conference: “The conference needs to be run by people who live in Mexico.”

The first steps to achieve that goal have already taken place. “The conference was attended by people from all over Mexico,” Conchita explains. “At the end of the conference, people from different regions in Mexico formed a committee, to fight for change and legislation,” she continues.

Conchita was one of three winners of LightHouse for the Blind’s Holman Prize for Blind Ambition in 2018. The Holman Prize for Blind Ambition is about changing the perception of blindness around the world. Conchita’s Cambiando Vidas conference clearly did just that. By bringing people together, the conference helps to raise the bar for people who are blind. This has led to attendees advocating for more opportunities for blind people in Mexico. “When people come together,” Conchita says, “they can make a big change.”

Read about the rest of the 2018 Holman Prize winners here and learn about the newly crowned 2019 winners and their projects changing perceptions of people who are blind globally.

 

Announcing the 2019 Holman Prizewinners

Announcing the 2019 Holman Prizewinners

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

San Francisco, CA, Thursday, July 11

All inquiries and interview requests to: press@lighthouse-sf.org.

LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired’s Holman Prizewinners will each use their $25,000 awards to promote blind empowerment by building a tool for blind people to find exoplanets, taking a plunge into public transit in six cities around the world and developing a network of blind mentors for the first time in rural Gambia.

In just a few months, three intrepid blind individuals will set off around the world in a daring series of groundbreaking adventures as the 2019 winners of the Holman Prize for Blind Ambition.

We announce the three 2019 Holman Prize winners: Yuma Decaux, Alieu Jaiteh and Mona Minkara after a rigorous, multifaceted judging process. Each winning project embodies its own sense of adventure and ambition – Yuma plans to give blind citizens advanced tools to participate in astronomical research, Alieu will create a network of blind mentors in his home country of The Gambia, where this is unheard of, and Mona will immerse herself in an adventure on mass transit systems worldwide, documenting the experience on film.

Created to change perceptions and popularize the concept of “blind ambition”, the San Francisco LightHouse’s Holman Prize Holman Prize annually awards three blind adventurers up to $25,000 to support their ambitious dreams.

Now in its third year, the prize is named for James Holman (1786-1857), a Victorian-era adventurer and author. As the first blind person to circumnavigate the globe, he holds the further distinction of being the most prolific traveler in history, sighted or blind, prior to the invention of modern transportation.

“While many awards in the blindness field look toward past accomplishment, the LightHouse is determined to spark new initiatives for future growth by some of the world’s most ambitious blind people,” said LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin.

The LightHouse was first introduced to the three applicants through their 90-second video pitches. You can see their original pitches here:

Yuma Decaux

Alieu Jaiteh

Mona Minkara

Yuma Decaux, Alieu Jaiteh and Mona Minkara were part of a competitive pool of 111 applicants from six continents.

View all 15 Holman finalists’ video pitches.

The three Holman Prizewinners will fly to San Francisco in September 2019 for a week-long orientation before starting their project year on October 1. Once they land in San Francisco, the winners will not only meet and learn from each other, but they will engage with other blind teachers, technologists and leaders from LightHouse’s extended network. The winners will also create comprehensive plans to document and share their experiences along the way through video, audio, writing and other media. 

Our 2018 prizewinners are each in the final stages of their Holman projects. Stacy Cervenka launched the Blind Travelers’ Network last month, Red Szell successfully completed his extreme blind triathlon and Conchita Hernandez will soon host a blindness workshop in Mexico. 

LightHouse is still interested in finding corporate or philanthropic supporters for the 12 finalists who we found irresistible but simply couldn’t fund this year.  For possible support please contact Jennifer Sachs at jsachs@lighthouse-sf.org 

Applications or the 2020 Holman Prize will open in January 2020. Please consult www.holmanprize.org for details.

 The Holman Prize is determined by a prestigious international group of judges, all of whom are blind.  

The prize is a flagship  program of the LightHouse for the Blind in San Francisco, who will salute each winner in an annual gala now set for the fall of 2020 in San Francisco.

Meet the blind judges who picked the winners. 

About the Holman Prize for Blind Ambition

In 2017, LightHouse for the Blind, headquartered in San Francisco, launched the Holman Prize to support the emerging adventurousness and can-do spirit of blind and low vision people worldwide. This endeavor celebrates people who want to shape their own future instead of having it laid out for them.

Created specifically for legally blind individuals with a penchant for exploration of all types, the Prize provides financial backing – up to $25,000 – for three individuals to explore the world and push their limits. Learn more at holmanprize.org.

About the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco

The LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, is actively seeking sponsorships and support for the Holman Prize, including donations of equipment for the winner’s projects. To offer your support, contact holman@lighthouse-sf.org. Individuals may donate any amount using LightHouse’s secure form. For sponsorship inquiries, email us or call +1 (415) 694-7333.

For press inquiries, contact press@lighthouse-sf.org.