By FELICITY DARVILLE
HE became the head of his household at an early age. The death of his parents not only placed some big responsibility in his hands, it left a void in his heart and the hearts of his siblings. Ervens Jean-Pierre refused to allow his blindness to affect his ability to become a father figure for his brother and sisters. He continues to push boundaries and prove that people living with disabilities are capable of thriving and achieving their greatest desires.
Back in August of 2017, Ervens and his siblings suffered the devastating loss of their mother, who was struck down by a vehicle. That tragedy was coupled by another one just two months later. By October, the siblings were left to fend for their own when their father passed away from a heart attack.
Instead of buckling and folding during one of the most difficult times in his life, Ervens rose to the occasion. He became both parents for his siblings. He had to give love and attention to them, while figuring out the way forward for his family. Although he couldn’t replace his parents, Ervens wanted them to know that he would be a constant in their lives no matter what. Staying strong wasn’t easy, and he says that even now, there are good and bad days. But he holds the faith that he is doing the right thing.
Ervans is living with a disability. At the age of 14, he became blind, and his life completely changed. But to meet him is to discover an energetic, happy young man with a bright future.
Somehow, Ervens developed cataracts in his eyes around the tender age of three. His parents took him to doctors, who arranged a surgery for him, which was unsuccessful. The doctors attempted again and on that occasion, Ervens was able to see again. He went on through his boyhood like any typical child, playing and enjoying life. But when he was 14, an accident happened. He was playing dashing with his friends when one of them accidentally hit him in his eye with his elbow.
Ervens’ eye started to bleed behind the retina, rendering him blind. Another surgery was conducted in attempt to save Ervens’ sight, but it was unsuccessful. Instead of being cast into a world of darkness emotionally, Ervens decided to look on the positive side of things.
“I accept my disability,” he said, frankly.
“By me accepting it, life comes easy. My mother never kept me inside. I was out in the yard playing with the children, moving around like nothing happened. My friends and family don’t treat me like I am blind. They treat me like one of them. Some even come to me to handle things for them or give them advice.”
When he look at his life, and thinks about the lives of some of the friends he grew up with, he says that his blindness could have been a sign of his blessing. With so many young men tangled in the courts and the prison, or already dead at such a young age, Ervens is counting his blessings.
He gets support from The Bahamas Alliance for the Blind and Visually Impaired (BABVI). The group renders support to their members in any way they can. Having the camaraderie and fellowship with others living with disabilities has allowed him to have an outlet to share things that only they would understand. BABVI President Desmond Brown, Public Relations officer Dario Charlton, and BABVI members chose Ervens to share his story, as October is Blindness Awareness Month.
BABVI members want the public to know that people who are blind or visually impaired have a support group and a network, that allows them to empower each other emotionally, economically, and in many other ways.
Ervens is currently employed at the Salvation Army Mop Factory. In this way, he is able to fully take care of himself, and he is able to help to support his family.
“For me, living with blindness, some days are rough and some are easy,” he said, adding that every day he gives God thanks.
“I am the head of my house. I cook and clean. I deal with the landlord and I pay my own bills. I have access to my banking information. I use online banking and I pay all my bills. My phone has talk back technology, so I can handle whatever i have to do. I turned on my light in my own name. The only time I went in BPL was to pay my deposit. Since then, I pay my bill via the internet. So, I don’t have to ask someone to take me somewhere all the time. Basically I only need assistance when I have to go to the doctor or when I am shopping.”
Ervens says that he has been able to make life as normal as possible. He chooses his own outfits every morning. When he purchases an outfit, once they tell him the colour, he remembers it and places his clothing where he will know what colour he wishes to choose on any given day. He feels the fabric and knows the type of look and feel he wants for his apparel. He even orders items online. he does this so often that his family members even ask him to order their items from time to time.
“I am really good living with my disability, beamed the handsome young man with a bright future.
He looks forward to the day when he settles down with his own wife and children, but in the meantime, he is still a father figure and a big brother to his many siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews and godchildren, all whom he loves dearly.
“Sometimes, people don’t want to be bothered with you, or consider you a nag when you have t constantly ask them to do things, he said.
It is for this reason that he remains as independent as possible.
“Sometimes, people would say they are coming to help you, but never arrive,” he said.
“It could be depressing, but I never dwell on it or feel sad about it. I bounce up handle what I have to handle. There have been times in my life when people have said, ‘Carry your blind self!’, but I never let it bother me. I just try to be as independent as possible. I will even walk to the corner store to get necessities if I have to. I just try to make the best out of life and not be a burden to anyone.”
On October 15, BAVI celebrated White Cane Day at the Mall at marathon. It gave BABVI members a chance to bring awareness to their needs, while also encouraging members of the public to get their eyes tested, and take good care of them. At the mall, they conducted eyesight screening, Diabetes testing and blood pressure screening, all in conjunction with the Bahamas Society of Ophthalmic Nurses (BSON) and Ace Diabetes.
On October 6, BABVI held an online forum to officially kick off the 14th annual Blindness Awareness Month under the theme: “Love Your Eyes”. Government dignitaries attended. There is a registration drive, as BABVI attempts to attract the many people living with low or impaired vision, or are blind who have yet to take advantage of the support they offer.
BABVI also held a thanksgiving service and luncheon. On Friday, October 21, BABVI members will be serving breakfast to students and staff of the Salvation Army’s Erin H Gilmour School for the Blind. On October 27, they will host a reception for new members and for those who are newly facing their blind or visually impaired condition. for more information, visit BABVI Bahamas on Facebook, or call: Desmond Brown at 535-9142 or Drop Charlton at 802-7585.
Ervens knows how important it is to have a support group, especially when he has come to be the support for so many.
“We need to be treated fairly and not pushed in a corner; even though we may be blind, we can still get back in society,” said the 29 year-old.
“We need people to give us a chance. Don’t just look at my disability and think I cant do anything. I am willing to try anything. I would even pick up a hammer and a nail - any opportunity I am given, I will rise to the occasion. Take the time to know people living with disabilities and learn who we are and what we can really do.
“I just love to be helpful; I help wherever I can. I even mentor young people. I tell them, don’t ever give up on life - just believe in yourself never give up!”