South African Visually Impaired Boy Wins International Writing Competition


Life has made many people wear the tag of courage amid challenges and difficulties and nurtures one’s mind with great thoughts and ‘can do’ spirit in the face of hopelessness.

Joel’s excellence shows the extent to which determination, confidence and courage can take one to, irrespective of one’s incapabilities and potentials. Yes, because in first place, Joel would have been deterred by his visual impairment but he marched on to pit his intelligence with those of other kids with sound eyes.

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It all started barely 6 months after Joel was born, he was diagonized of optic glaucoma, a degenerative condition that was a result of a brain tumour,which made the boy to go for chemotherapy.

According to his mother, doctors opined that he won’t cross the age of 1. But, Joel beat the odds of life, survived and had to live with tumors all his life.

The 12-year-old boy from Kuils River has spent his life visiting hospitals as if hospital visitation was a homage. Yet, he held on to life and books, excelling at every point.

Opportunity for greatness showed up when the Lions Clubs International organized an international writing competition. Joel courageously grabbed the opportunity, not knowing that his courage would pay off.

Joel, who is a student at the Athlone School for the Blind had moved on with life with only one eye. And when he dropped his 500-word essay on the topic of ‘Share Peace’, his article was picked over entries from children in about 100 other countries. Making him the second South Africa to win the international prize.

One hearing about Joel’s feat, his school mate Barbara Davis expressed an overwhelming happiness. He said, “It is unbelievable. It means so much for the school and the pupils. We didn’t expect it.” the.

Joel’s victory would see him  and his mother going on an overseas trip for the first time in their lives.

According to his mother, the smart lad compiled the essay just in one day. She said that his son’s love for history was immeasurable. “He wants to become a historian. He knows about Anne Frank, Mandela, Helen Keller…” Greek says excitedly. Sometimes Joel stays up late into the night watching videos online about historical figures,” Inge Greek said.

Inge said she was 21 when she gave birth to Joel. She added that she never knew her son would make it because last year, around the time when he had to submit his entry to the competition, doctors discovered another tumour, leading him to stay in hospitals for few days.

“It is a privilege to be his mother. He has achieved way more than I ever expected,” she said and expressed her profound gratitude to the medical team who helped in saving her son’s life.

Though, she admitted that raising Joel all by herself have not been easy because his father stays in another province, she said it’s been completely worth it.

Joel and his mother will be travelling to New York on March 9 where they are expected to receive his award and prize money of $5 000 (more than R75 000) at the United Nations headquarters.

Joel’s story is touching and tends to typify Prescott’s saying that ‘an obBoystacle is often a stepping stone’.

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