Candle-lit dinners in Dubai light up lives of the blind

DUBAI — Candlelight is one of the most poignant reminders of being thankful for sight. Last night 3,000 Dubaiites in over 90 restaurants, or in their homes, dined by candlelight to gather money for research for Retinitis Pigmentosa, a blindness causing disease.

By Shalini Seth

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Published: Wed 25 May 2005, 11:27 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 8:31 PM

“I took the onus of getting 18 people to come together, called 26 and ended up with 22 on my list,” says Debi Evans, a Foresight volunteer who co-ordinated the dinner at Dubai Offshore Sailing Club (DOSC).

“The father of one of my friends is afflicted by this so I am aware of the disease and sympathetic to the cause,” said Joanna Gorsuch, one of the diners at DOSC. In the world, one in 3,500 people are said to be afflicted by Retinitis Pigmentosa which is characterised by night-blindness, absent ‘dark adaptation’, loss of peripheral vision in various stages.

Katy Newitt, Dubai’s very own London Marathon runner who is afflicted by the disease and who has been an inspiration for many, also had a house party.

Says Sally Prosser, Media Manager, Foresight: “There is enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that the disease is prevalent in the UAE. Many people have hereditary diseases in the UAE and as families in the region are often larger than in the West, often children from the same family suffer the traumatic condition. The money from this event will go towards funding research in the region.”

Not everyone had a personal connection but pitched in regardless. Martin Brannan, who dined with 22 others at DOSC, said: “I came simply because my friend called and I wanted to contribute.”

Others like Mark Powell came because his wife Gail has been involved in teaching the partially sighted in the UK.

“We dined blindfolded to understand what it feels like. We took partners and one of us was blindfolded and the other one was guiding. It is really tricky to get the food on the spoon. Very often the spoon came up empty...something Katy says happens to her all the time,” said Manda Glenn who was one of the diners at home. Guests turned up with donation instead of flowers or wine. Restaurants from Bateaux Dubai, Grand Hyatt, Pyramids, Crowne Plaza, the Jebel Ali group and Awtar also contributed by making sure the diners were kept well fed and happy.

Dinner cost anywhere between Dh50 to Dh175 and the money from these as well as the donation envelopes that people carried came to Foresight.

“There is a triangular effort between the restaurants, diners and the media. The restaurants went out of their way to make it special,” said Sarah Eccleston, co-ordinator for Foresight Candlelight.

Once the project was underway choirs and DJs also made an effort to entertain the diners. The Foresight choir went around singing at venues including the British Consulate where 18 dined, the Grand Hyatt and DOSC.

The event also underscores the socio-cultural consciousness that the multicultural city is acquiring.

“I have been here for 23 years and in the past few years I do see Dubai moulding its own future,” says Mark Powell. The diners included people from various nationalities including British, Swedish, Lebanese, South African, Indian, Australian, German, Canadians and others from all sections of society. So did you dine in candlelight on Monday?

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