Jessica, “If I can do it, can you?”
I was born in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga in 1981 and at the age of 3 months old, my parents found out the devastating news that their first born baby was blind. After many trips to and from Johannesburg and all the tests in the book were performed on me for, but the cause of my blindness was beyond the grasp of the medical technology of the time.
My brother and sister who came after me, thankfully did not suffer the same fate. As we grew up they did not comprehend why I always held mummies hand or held on to the trolley in the shops, and they each wanted their own trolley to hold on to. As a teenager I already experienced the reality of rejection when I could not accompany them to clubs and noisy parties, “but you are blind and deaf”.
From the age of 5 years old I was sent away to Worcester where I attended the Pioneer school until I matriculated in 1999. In Standard 2 my teacher realized I could not hear her, when I sit at the back of the class. I endured a lot of hearing tests and the end result showed that I only had 30% hearing in both ears, 70% hearing loss. Up to the age of 18 years, stubbornness prevented me from wearing hearing aids and today I cannot live without them.
In 2005 while still studying massage Therapy in Fishhoek, I met my Husband, Johannes Grib at a Braille chess tournament in Worcester, he too is blind. We married in March 2007 with Kyle and Oreo our guide dogs at our sides. It was a big occasion in White River but one of my best in the whole wide world and I am proud to show my wedding photo album off to anyone interested although I could not even see the photos myself, I’m happy to relive the event by listening to others talk about what they see in the album.
In 2006 I was diagnosed with PCOS and today, between Annique, healthy eating habits and a strenuous exercise program I’m keeping my health under control.
Everyone had to start somewhere and my beginnings were all over the country. I struggled to find a college that catered for blind people and after several schools I finally found Madge-Wallace.
It was still an additional 4 year journey but I successfully completed the following diplomas:
- Therapeutic Reflexology
- Therapeutic Aromatherapy
- Therapeutic Massage therapy
Madge-Wallace awarded me the Legend Award trophy for excellent results studying under difficult circumstances.
In 2015 I studied Advanced Reflexology at Balancing touch.
I always get this question, “you are blind so your other senses must be perfect?”, then I say no, I cannot hear, I can show you by taking out my hearing aids. People can see that I am blind but the deafness is an invisible disability with symptoms that everyone interprets differently. Some think I’m rude because I “ignore” them or talk over them but there are thankfully those precious few who realise I am actually hard of hearing.
Miracles can really happen, with the help of Ansty my retired guide dog, Johannes and Ashley Mandich, in 2010 I was on the 94.7 Highveld Stereo Christmas wish list and Phonak sponsored me with a brand new pair of hearing aids. This fantastic gift allowed me to do my bit and I donated my old pair of hearing aids to a friend who is in a similar situation.
So, although I wear hearing aids I still struggle to hear properly but without them I’m deaf. I try to never to run out of hearing aid batteries, which is a definite no-no.
People seem to think as a disabled person I have a huge support system but the truth is that I’m very independent and enjoy doing things myself, including cooking. Johannes and I are staying in a big house with only our cats and guide dogs for company. I feed us and our four legged children myself and have not had many complaints yet.
Reliable help is hard to find as people only want to help when there’s a tangible reward in it for them and it does not take them out of their comfort zone. I on the other hand, get comfort from helping others and making a difference.
Due to my hearing loss I prefer written communication mediums such as e-mail, WhatsApp, Skype texting, Facebook and sms’s. How? My phone and computer have software that speaks to me and it can even spell stuff so I can get it right the first time. Being able to read and write is important to any business person and it is no different for me, I can take bookings, send out quotations and enjoy sharing knowledge with friends and clients.
With Johannes’s help I even started designing my own website for Jessica’s Wellness Studio, www.jwspa.co.za. I became an Independent Annique Consultant in 2012 after doing research for a natural, South African based skincare range. All the other beauty houses who supply such products expects you to make a huge financial layout to start up.
So I phoned Annique head office to ask how I can buy their range for my studio and they gave me their nearest consultant’s contact details, Amanda Phyffer who has helped me in so many ways over the years to learn the ropes of Annique. From delivering orders for me, fill in registration forms, take me to seminars, training an meetings, and the list just goes on. The other great thing about Annique is that you can earn money while changing people’s lives every day and they even teach you how to do it all.
In the years I have joined I have met fantastic, friendly people and have heard so many wonderful testimonials. I have received recognition for my efforts in hosting pamper parties from Sandra Kruger’s Kosmos group in Randburg and improvement of sales in July 2013 to July 2014 from Sanette Horn’s Annique Day Spa group in Centurion.
In my drive for self-improvement, I try to attend as many Annique training seminars as possible. In September 2014 I attended the presentation skills seminar hosted by Angelique and Ernest du Toit at Annique head office and it was so accessible that I could participate in all aspects of the course.
Ernest and Angelique Du Toit were amazed when they gave us 6 questions to answer in front of a video camera that I could remember all the questions. So it’s not always good to rely on memory but before the technology era it was the best way to retain knowledge.
In July, 2015 I became a Tupperware demonstrator at a demonstrator party that my Sister-in-law, Anita Haviga arranged for me at my house with a few of my friends. Chatting in small groups or one on one conversation is by far preferable and easier on the ears than in noisy places like next to a busy street or in a busy shop it allows me to follow the conversation.
Unfortunately the mobile phone is not always the best medium as we still in this age of technology have issues with weak cellular signals making it very hard to hear and people hate to repeat themselves.
My interests are:
- Reading audio books on my iphone as well as podcasts
- Knitting and crocheting
- Physical exercise to keep me sane
- Health topics such as traditional and alternative medicine
- Reading articles on websites such as www.girlsgonestrong.com, www.precisionnutrition.com and runner’s world South Africa
- online shopping and my favourite clothing website is www.lornajane.co.za
- Toast masters Roodepoort
- Lions International
- Train at Aspire Strength and Conditioning since March 2015 5 times a week.
- Did the 15 km 702 walk the talk in 2015
- Did a 5 km Park Run at Loretta Roodepoort Parkrun most Saturdays since August 2016
- Have participate blind bowls since 2015
- Spin at Virgin Active 3 times a week since June 2016 – I take a Uber there and a friend of mine gives me a lift back.
I participated in the Blind Navigator’s Rally club with a sighted driver and was 1st overall championship winner for 2016. How does it work?
The blind person is the Navigator and they have a driver. The blind navigator gets a route schedule in braille. We need to inform the driver about speed, instructions, distances and time. During the rally there are marshal points where they write down the arrival time you arrived. Each second you are early and each second you are late is a penalty point against you. The winner of such a rally is the one with the lowest scoring points against them. I am very competitive and in the years I have participated received overall 3rd & 2nd positions in the championships. I have also won a few rallies with the help of Patric Mills my driver.
Unfortunately Ansty my lovable guide dog had to retire in October 2016 and SAGA, South African Guide Dog Association found her a new home. She is very happy there. So I have a new friend, called Lucea and I got her on 23 October 2016. I had to stay at guide dogs for 2 weeks to do training with Lucea and she has settled down in our house and my heart very well.
Life has lots of challenges for me such as transport, marketing my business creating my brand getting material at workshops but life is too short to stay sad due to these difficulties. I go on and make the most of every living moment with a laugh here and there, even about my disabilities and mistakes in life.
I do dream and some of my dreams are to become a motivational speaker and participate in the Para Olympics or run a marathon one day. I remember this quote when all looks like doom and gloom from Angelique Du Toit: We win or we lose by the way that we choose and I am a winner so hope whoever reads this decides to be a winner in life.