Lea la versión en español aquí: Un mensaje después del huracán María
The devastation sustained to the U.S. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria was crippling and widespread. Because of the paralyzing storm, much of the island’s residents have been internally displaced with little access to basic services or even electricity. Tens of thousands of these displaced residents—who are U.S. citizens—have already begun to resettle in the Central Florida region where many of them have familial ties. All indicators suggest that more Puerto Ricans are expected in the coming months.
Former Lighthouse Transition student, Eduardo Gonzalez, left his native Puerto Rico several years ago so he and his brother could access better vision rehabilitation services stateside. In this blog post Eduardo has an encouraging message for the incoming migrants—particularly those who are living with blindness or some form of vison loss.
My name is Eduardo—close friends call me Eddie. I am 20 years old and I’m incredibly passionate about music. I write and produce my own songs—everything from rock and roll to country-western. I have every intention of making this my career!
I also happen to be legally blind—so is my older brother Jose. My family and I are originally from Isabella, Puerto Rico. My mother, brother, sister and I moved to Central Florida back in 2012 because my brother and I needed to access better vision services.
After Hurricane Maria hit in September I was deeply concerned about my family and friends who still live on the island. We were unable to connect with anyone for five days and that left us all feeling very scared and anxious. Thankfully, everyone was safe. My family on the island has decided to stay there for now and pick up the pieces of their lives on a broken island.
I do understand the reasons why other Puerto Ricans are leaving to come to places like Central Florida. They want to get back to living a normal life as soon as possible.
Both my brother and I have a form of albinism known as Hermansky-Pudlak syndrome. It is a hereditary condition that occurs when the body fails to produce enough of the pigment, melanin. Pigmentation in the eye is essential for normal vision.
According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, Hermansky-Pudlak affects males and females in equal numbers. It is most prevalent in persons from northwest Puerto Rico, where the disorder affects one of every 1800 individuals. One in 21 individuals of northwest Puerto Rican descent are believed to be carriers of the Hermansky-Pudlak syndrome type 1 gene.
There is a very good chance that among the waves of Puerto Rican migrants resettling in Central Florida after Hurricane Maria, there are persons living with this form of albinism and likely in need of services offered by Lighthouse.
If you are reading this now and happen to be one of these candidates or know of someone who is, I would encourage you to contact Lighthouse for an assessment. My brother and I were part of the Transition for Teens program at Lighthouse for four years and I can easily say, it changed my life!
The Transition program provides young people age 14-22 with the skills and experience they need to facilitate successful transition from high school to post-secondary activities, such as college, vocational school and employment. But Lighthouse also offers services for individuals of all ages—from birth to seniors—who live with any degree of vision loss. Plus, many of the instructors and other staff speak Spanish and will be able to answer your questions right away.
In the four years I attended the Transition program I was taught tips and techniques that helped me gain independence and confidence showed me how to live beyond the restrictions of vision loss. I was exposed me to incredible opportunities that showed me that anything is truly possible. I’m currently enrolled at the Hadley School for the Blind and Visually Impaired and still working on my music. The relationships I made at Lighthouse I will keep for a lifetime! To find out more about the services that Lighthouse please visit: www.LighthouseCFL.org or call, (407) 898-2483.