Supporting visually impaired people in Macedonia
Macedonia is one of the countries in which the infrastructure for visually impaired people is still underdeveloped. It remains one of the most vulnerable groups and is also among the most marginalised. Roche Macedonia decided to act and was recognised as most innovative company in Sustainability for its ‘Share the Light’ campaign.
There is very little infrastructure and support for a normal life in Macedonia for visually impaired people. This means that they have to rely heavily on close family and relatives for help in all practical matters, including all daily activities such as shopping, cleaning and short trips, but also for filling out administrative paperwork and other such activities. Yet many visually impaired people want to take an active part in society and be better integrated in Macedonian society through work.
What we’re doing
Starting in 2015, we partnered with the Red Cross, the State School for Rehabilitation of Children and Youth with Visual Impairments “Dimitar Vlahov”, as well as with the National Association for Visually Impaired People in the Republic of Macedonia.
The Share the Light campaign is a long-term initiative aiming at identifying the real needs and problems encountered by visually impaired people and their families. A key objective is to improve their inclusion in society as well as attract more companies to support the aims of the project. We competed against 40 projects in five categories submitted by no less than 30 companies nationwide. The campaign was officially inaugurated in 2015 during the 15th jubilee of our presence in Macedonia.
In November 2016, the Macedonian Ministry of Economy granted two awards for our commitment to Social Responsibility and Sustainability. The first award was for Most Innovative Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) project in 2016, and the second award for Successful Implementation of CSR Practice. The awards recognise companies for their impact on society and contribution to the community they operate in.
Tailored workshops were organised around strengthening individual capabilities and skills that allowed visually impaired children to participate in writing projects, learn about negotiation and selling skills, and use their creativity to generate an income. Focus groups allowed interaction between visually impaired children and representatives of the medical profession, while theater plays allowed for more playful interaction with the children. This work resulted in the publication of the first ever guidebook for the needs of visually impaired people in Macedonia.
A major impact was achieved when the project received much media attention. This attention not only raised the awareness of the issues encountered by visually impaired people in Macedonia, but also about the importance to integrate people with all forms of disabilities in Macedonian society. “Share the Light” will continue until 2018.