he has been grappling with blindness for years and thought his life was over, but now Daniel Trum has accepted his condition for what it is after years of self pity and denial.
Learning to embrace his blindness has lifted him out of the jaws of despair and into the able man he is today.
Trum has been serving as the national co-ordinator for the Namibia Federation of the Visually Impaired (NFVI) since 2009 and has not allowed his condition to deter him from living a positive life.
The 34-year old sits in front of his computer in his office in Windhoek West and abruptly looks up from the computer to the sound of the opening door.
At first glance, one can hardly notice that he has a visual impairment since childhood and has now become the voice of the blind community in Namibia.
Not so long ago, in his capacity as the NFVI national director, Trum urged the Government to provide computer software programmes specifically for the blind, a mission which he successfully accomplished.
“People underestimate the blind community and we are often thought of as incapable” he says.
At 16, his entire life took a different turn when he was struck by cataracts and was ushered into complete blindness.
“My friends stopped visiting and I could not go out and play with them either. It was very scary,” he recalls.
So discouraged was he that he remained confined in his room most of the time, refusing to go out except when visiting the clinic for check-ups.
“I was overcome with fear and felt lonely all the time. I dreaded having to leave the house,” the Rundu-born Trum says.
He was in Grade 7 at Rundu Primary School when he lost his sight and was forced to abandon his education as a result.
“My younger brother was my eyes as he helped me during that difficult period in my life. My mother was also a very good source of support but my brother was my keeper,” he says.
In a desperate attempt to regain his sight, Trum underwent an operation in 1996 at Rundu and a second one in 1997 in Windhoek.
“After the operation, I regained my sight and thought life had finally returned back to normal,” he recalls but tragedy struck once more when the cataracts returned two years later, leaving him in darkness.
Being a music lover and singer, he found comfort in playing music and often performed at his local church. It was not until he was rehabilitated at the Federation of the Blind in Windhoek that Trum finally came to accept his condition.
“It was here that I first learnt to read and write using Braille. I also learnt about mobility, orientation and hand-craft, my life improved drastically afterwards and I began to view things differently,” he says.
Trum was so motivated after the rehabilitation programme that he went on to do a few courses to develop himself and learnt to play keyboard.
Having a support group at the Federation also helped him regain his confidence and for the first time, began to have a sense of purpose in life.
Trum currently lives on his own in Windhoek’s Otjomuise settlement and says he knows his way around even without a helping hand from sympathizers.
“I can do everything people with sight can do except drive a car in traffic,” he jokes. “I can move a car as well although I cannot get it on the road.”
Like many blind people, Trum heavily relies on his senses to identify individuals and objects. He boards a taxi on his own without help during his frequent trips to and from work.
“I have mastered the art of sensing whether a vehicle is a taxi. I get lost once in a while and mistakenly try to get in the wrong vehicle just to discover it’s somebody’s private car,” he said laughing.
Not only has he learnt to be self-reliant, but Trum is also the bread-winner in his family as he sends money home to his family every month to pay for his brother’s school fees.
He believes that enough is not being done to raise awareness about physical impairments such as blindness as he still comes across ignorant people who question his abilities and discriminate him.
“I was applying for a loan one day when my financial management abilities were questioned. Such is the ignorance of our society,” he says.
Currently, the NFVI has over 6 500 members with four regional offices in Ondangwa, Rundu, Keetmanshoop and two offices in Windhoek, with a fifth office expected to open in Katima Mulilo later this year.
“We get a lot of young people from various backgrounds. Most of them were not born blind but lost their sight due to various diseases. The senior members are the ones that report cataracts as the leading cause of their blindness,” he says.
For many blind people, like Trum, the Federation has helped them make something of their lives and taught them that their disability doesn’t have to disable them.
They are trained to identify individuals, run household chores, identify money and mobility with little help from their care-givers.
“Once we go through the rehabilitation programme, we are at least able to effectively lead productive lives and lift the burden off our guides as they are taught to be self-dependent and this is what the Federation aims to achieve,” he concludes.