The Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco is excited to give the first Holman Prizes to three visually impaired people making a huge difference around the world. All three of the winners will receive financial assistance to help them achieve their ambitious goals and demonstrate the ability of people with visual impairments.
The first Holman Prize winner is Ojok Simon from Uganda. Ugandan rebels blinded Simon when he was just a boy living in a rural town. Today, Simon is 36 years old and has been supporting himself as a beekeeper for 15 years.
To help others, Simon founded a group called Hive Uganda in 2013. This organization teaches people with visual impairments all about proper beekeeping.
The second winner is Penny Melville-Brown from the town of Farnham, England. Melville-Brown, who went blind while she was working for the British Royal Navy, has a passion for cooking. She hopes to inspire visually impaired people around the world to cook with her organization Baking Blind.
Melville-Brown plans to use the prize money to travel and blog her experiences with people she meets around the world. Just a few places Melville-Brown has taught cooking seminars before include Australia, Virginia, and China.
Finally, the last person to receive the Holman Prize is Ahmet Ustunel from San Francisco. Ustunel, who works as a teacher and is visually impaired, is working on a guidance system that will help him kayak some 500 miles around the world without any assistance. Ustunel's main goal is to travel across the Bosphorus Strait into Turkey.
In case you were wondering, this Holman Prize was named after the 19th century English navy lieutenant James Holman. Holman went completely blind at the age of 25. Despite his disability, Holman became the most traveled blind man for his age. He first went to Scotland and he never stopped traveling until he reached Siberia.
All three award winners were extremely humbled by the honor. Melville-Brown told reporters she feels "a great responsibility" with this award. She hopes to use the grant money to show the world that "blind people…have got lots of get up and go and ability, and they are a great resource for the rest of the community."
Simon wants to use the grant money to increase his organization's reach in East Africa. As of today, Simon's Hive Uganda has taught 38 people how to use frames to feel honey harvests from bee cages.
Will Butler, The Lighthouse's communications director, told reporters that the Holman prize was somewhat like a Fulbright for the visually impaired. Each recipient of the Holman Prize receives $25,000 or less to fund their endeavors.
202 people from over 25 countries applied for this award. Each applicant had to send in a 90-second video telling The Lighthouse what they intended to use the prize money for.
The Lighthouse's CEO Bryan Bashin told reporters he was shocked at the level of interest in this award. There's no word yet whether or not The Lighthouse will give out the Holman Award next year.