Seeing is Believing

first_imgShareff is walking alone.The other campers have gone ahead, scrambling, scuffling, stumbling up the trail, eager to find what lies around the next bend, but Shareff has fallen behind. His pace is slow, so slow that it’s hard to find a word for it. Deliberate doesn’t begin to describe it; plodding sounds too speedy by half. We’ll put it somewhere between a tortoise and a sloth. The reason: Shareff is paying attention. Close attention.Shareff is blind, but that’s not unusual on this day. We’re at a camp for kids with no or low vision. Two of our hikers are totally blind, and two nearly so. The rest have visual impairments of varying scope and severity—severe enough, in most cases, to turn the leaves and rocks and roots of the woods into a blur of bright color and indiscriminate shapes. Still they are up ahead, halfway to the lunch spot, while Shareff still navigates the first five hundred feet of the Warren Wilson River Trail.Shareff has been blind since birth. He has light perception, but no usable vision. He’s the first to admit he doesn’t spend much time in the woods. It’s a novel experience for him, a world truly wild, and so he pays attention. He’s paying attention with his feet: his light-soled sneakers help him feel the forest floor. He’s paying attention with his hands, collecting information with two trekking poles as he feels his way along the trail. But mostly he’s paying attention with his ears. He listens for the voice of his teacher, the song of the stream, the rustle of his peers shuffling into the distance. Above all, he listens to his clicks. All blind people use sound to orient themselves—the footfalls of a friend, the echo of a cane tip in an empty room—but Shareff is an active echolocator, clicking his tongue and waiting to hear the reflected sound, using a hundred tiny snapshots to construct an auditory image of the world around him.Shareef on the wall_FIXShareff has never been in woods so dense. When his clicks come back to him soft and muffled, he knows that the leaves are thick and close. And when he hears a short, sharp report, he knows he’s found the trunk of a large and sturdy tree—the kind it’s best to step around. He turns his head left-and-right, clicking to map the space around him, hearing the path ahead and using his trekking poles to confirm his impressions. He has not taken many steps, it is true, but he has taken each one of them alone. His teacher watches from a distance as Shareff makes his way over rocks and roots, upslope and down, taking stock with every step.Other hikers will log more miles today, but it’s hard to imagine one more immersed in nature than Shareff is at this moment. This is why we came.In June of this year, I launched an outdoor adventure camp for kids who are blind and visually impaired. It’s part of a family of camps run by A Brighter Path Foundation, collectively known as the SEE (Student Enrichment Experience) Camps. The camps are staffed by certified teachers for the visually impaired—together we have dozens of years of experience—and are the brainchild of Chris Flynt, the director of A Brighter Path programs, who lost his own vision to retinitis pigmentosa in early adulthood. The campers are kids we have met over the years, and our goal this week is to get them off the couch and into the woods—to hike, zip, climb, and raft in the wilds of western North Carolina.Luke zip_FIXAdults are constantly conspiring to plop kids into the backcountry, and we’re no exception. We do it for all the usual reasons: to build confidence and competence, to encourage teamwork, to improve problem-solving skills. Essential traits for all children, but perhaps more critical for the blind and visually impaired. Our campers grow up in a world that is skeptical of their skill. They hear too many messages of blindness as a disability, and live in a world of overabundant caution, with too many can’ts in the places of cans. Internalize this message, and it becomes all too easy to sit on the sidelines and let the world whirl by unheeded. In hitting the trail, we hope to fight this impulse: to expand possibility, reward curiosity, and nurture the spirit of adventure that beats in every heart.And so we hiked, rambling down the River Trail and giving new meaning to the word treehugger. (Every now and then, our camper Jordan would give a nearby trunk a healthy squeeze, to better sense its size and shape.)We zipped, soaring through the Nantahala River Gorge at speeds approaching fifty miles per hour, on lines up to a half-mile long. As each kid flew from view, and even the sighted teachers lost track of our charges, we tuned our ears to the tensile whine of the line, following each zipper’s progress by the pitch and volume of the returning sound.We climbed, scaling a fifty foot vertical wall at the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly, and found that wall to be a great equalizer. The sighted and blind alike struggled with floundering feet and outstretched fingertips, climbing higher through grit and grimace in equal measure, fueled by the shouts of our groundbound friends.Jay River Interview_FIXWe floated, rafting down the ancient French Broad, our paddles dug deep and true, as the waves and ripples and eddies spoke from all sides in a constantly shifting soundscape. We smelled the rich and redolent bouquet of wild waters, of river rocks drying in the vanishing sun, and now and then felt the stray spray from the whitecaps alight upon our cheeks.The bus ride back from the takeout was a sensory garden of its own: the thick smell of packed rafters on wet vinyl, the too-still breeze from half-jammed schoolbus windows, the wheeze and choke of diesel fumes, the obligatory raft guide jokes emanating from the front of the bus…we had all of this and more to savor as we snaked our way back to base camp.All in all, it was a glorious week, a success by any measure. Our campers had a blast. They were active and engaged, heedless and reflective by turns, challenged and animated and triumphant. The same goes for the teachers. When it came time to say goodbye, we all walked away with a little more bounce in our step, a little more hope in our hearts.There were plenty of priceless moments during the week—many set against soaring mountain scenery, accompanied by whoops of joy—but the picture I return to time and again is the quiet intensity of Shareff’s walk in the woods. While he never ventured further than a half-mile from the road, Shareff was in a wilderness unlike one I’ve experienced in quite a while. The trail was new to him, and strange, and he had little idea what lay five feet ahead. His approach was one that we would all do well to heed as we confront our own personal wilderness: neither fearful nor fearless, cautious but curious, open to what the world has to offer, and patient enough to listen to its call.He knew what I once knew, and what I hope all our campers come to know in time: the world is open, wonderful, and wide. Dive right in.Jay Hardwig is a certified teacher for the visually impaired and Orientation & Mobility specialist, and the Asheville manager of A Brighter Path programs. He can be reached at [email protected]last_img read more

Best of 2014: credit union big data/analytics – Part 1

first_imgby: Austin WentzlaffBig Data/Analytics has been buzzing around different industries for some time now. A prime example is how Amazon used Big Data/Analytics to dominate the retail industry. For the Credit Union Industry, 2014 was the year for Big Data/Analytics. Credit unions are beginning to realize the value of data-driven decision-making and starting to turn the buzz of Big Data/Analytics into reality. As 2014 comes to an end, I have taken the liberty of compiling some of the industry’s favorite Big Data/Analytics related articles from OnApproach’s blog, The Decision Marker.  Here is part one of two.  Enjoy!7 Challenges to Consider when Building a Data WarehouseThe first step in embarking on the Big Data/Analytics journey is consolidating all disparate data into one “single source of truth.”  For credit unions, with many different sources system, this is no easy task.  Before embarking on that journey, there are several obstacles to consider.  See the full list here…Apple Pay: A Heads up for Credit UnionsMobile payments took a huge leap in 2014 with Apple’s announcement of Apple Pay.  This disruption in payments will have a tremendous impact on the financial services industry, especially the smaller players.  As credit unions work on the 2015 strategic plans, there are critical issues that need to be addressed.  Read more here…3 Credit Union Trends on Big DataAt the fall conference on Big Data hosted by Wikibon, there were several Big Data trend.  Of these trends, there were three main takeaways that credit unions should consider as they plan for 2015.  The 3 credit union trends on Big Data can be viewed here… continue reading » 4SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblrlast_img read more

Next year, in the Split-Dalmatia County, 197 million euros will be invested in tourism

first_imgThe Ministry of Tourism has again prepared a survey of investments in the tourism sector for next year. The survey covered all counties and tourism companies that submitted data on the announced investments for next year. According to the submitted data, in 2019, around one billion and 50 million euros will be invested in Croatian tourism, while investments according to the same survey in 2018 amounted to 940 million euros. The companies will invest around 626 million euros in their tourism projects, while the public sector, ie counties and cities and municipalities from their area will invest 425 million euros.  The announced investments in the private sector include investments in hotels, camps, nautical and other types of accommodation facilities, facilities and attractions.According to the data on investments from the survey of the Ministry of Tourism, the largest number of investments, ie the largest amount of total investments is planned in Primorje-Gorski Kotar County with a total of 203 million euros of investments, Split-Dalmatia with 197 million euros of investments and Istria with 175 million euros of investments. to invest 355 million euros in continental counties including the city of Zagreb.As many as eight hotels are opening in Split In the area of ​​the Split-Dalmatia County, as much as 197 million euros will be invested in tourism next year, with the city of Split being the most attractive to investors. As many as eight four- and five-star hotels are being built in Split, which, according to investor announcements, should open their doors to guests in the spring of next year, point out the Split-Dalmatia County Tourist Board.Ernst Young, an auditing and consulting company, announced in its research that the Split-Dalmatia County is among the most interesting investors in tourism. According to their estimate, by 2022, the investment will cover a total of 9700 hotel rooms, of which almost 6 are brand new rooms in high-categorized four- and five-star hotels.Photo: Pixabay.comMost of them are planned to open in Split, which is chronically suffering from a lack of hotel beds, so eight new larger hotels and a number of smaller ones should fix that picture. Thus, in April, the first Marriott International in Croatia with the Courtyard by Marriott brand should receive its guests, which will open the Dalmatia Tower with 190 rooms and four suites.By the beginning of the 2019 season, it is planned to open the hotel “Amphora Resort” on the Žnjan plateau with a total of 207 rooms, a congress hall, a number of catering facilities, but also three swimming pools and a luxurious wellness. The new pavilion of the “Radisson Blu Resort” with 54 rooms and 15 suites has sprung up on the site of the demolished building of the former hotel complex “Split”. On the site of the former Kalitern Park in Bačvice, work is nearing completion on a hotel that will have 60 rooms and 45 parking spaces on four floors.17 million euros are being invested in the former hotel “Ambasador” on the Split waterfront. The new “Ambassador” will have 101 rooms and suites, 240 seats in the restaurant, spa, gym, nightclub and underground garage with 59 seats, and its opening has been announced for summer 2019. On a plot located east of the bridge connecting the City Port of Split and Bačvice, “Villa Harmony” is being built on five above-ground floors with 26 rooms with an investment of HRK 32 million.With the completion of all these investments that are planned to receive the first guests in 2019, Split should be richer by about 1,5 thousand new top beds in hotels.RELATED NEWS:NEW CATALOG OF INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES IN THE REPUBLIC OF CROATIA PUBLISHED, MOST PROJECTS IN TOURISMlast_img read more

World offers support, condolences to Lebanon after devastating blasts

first_imgEmergency medical aid and pop-up field hospitals were dispatched to Lebanon on Wednesday, as the world offered assistance and paid tribute to the victims of the huge explosion that devastated Beirut.The blast centered on the city’s port caused massive destruction and killed more than 100 people, heaping misery on a country already in crisis.Emergency medical aid from Kuwait arrived in the Lebanese capital on Wednesday morning, as the Lebanese Red Cross said that more than 4,000 people were being treated for injuries after the explosion which sent glass shards and debris flying. Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab has called on “friendly countries” to support a nation already reeling from its worst economic crisis in decades as well as the coronavirus pandemic.Gulf states were among the first to respond, with Qatar announcing it would send field hospitals to ease pressure on Lebanon’s strained medical system.Crews at Doha’s Al-Udeid airbase loaded hundreds of collapsible beds, generators and burn sheets onto an air force cargo plane, one of four due to fly from the Gulf to the Mediterranean on Wednesday.Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said in a message to his Lebanese counterpart that Tehran was “ready to offer medical and medicinal aid and help treat the injured”. Jordan’s King Abdullah II also promised to dispatch a field hospital.  ‘Stay strong, Lebanon’ Close allies and traditional adversaries of Lebanon alike sent their condolences, with Iran and Saudi Arabia — long rivals for influence over the country — both sending messages of support.”Our thoughts and prayers are with the great and resilient people of Lebanon,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted.”Stay strong, Lebanon.”Saudi Arabia said it was following the situation with “great concern”.Unusually, neighboring Israel offered humanitarian aid — to a country with which it is still technically at war.”Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, on behalf of the State of Israel, have offered the Lebanese government — via international intermediaries — medical and humanitarian aid, as well as immediate emergency assistance,” a statement said.UN chief Antonio Guterres expressed his “deepest condolences … following the horrific explosions in Beirut” which he said had also injured some United Nations personnel.US President Donald Trump said “it looks like a terrible attack” and that US generals had told him that the powerful explosions appeared to have been caused by a “bomb of some kind”, without offering evidence.Qatar’s emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani wished “a speedy recovery for the injured,” while the United Arab Emirates’ vice president and ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, tweeted “our condolences to our beloved people in Lebanon”.Egypt expressed “deep concern” at the destruction, and Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit offered condolences, stressing “the importance of finding the truth about the explosions”.Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad wrote to his Lebanese counterpart Michel Aoun that “on behalf of the Syrian Arab people, we extend our sincere condolences to you and the Lebanese people”.Outside the region, President Vladimir Putin said that “Russia shares the grief of the Lebanese people”, according to a Kremlin statement.”I ask you to convey words of sympathy and support to the families and friends of the victims, as well as wishes for a speedy recovery to all affected.”British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the pictures and videos from Beirut “shocking”.French President Emmanuel Macron said in a tweet in Arabic that “France is at the side of Lebanon. Always.”His office said two military planes would take off for Lebanon later Wednesday with search and rescue experts, 15 tons of sanitary equipment and a mobile clinic. “The field hospital will include specialists and medical staff, to contribute in offering medical services and treatment to support our brothers in Lebanon,” Jordanian state television said in a report.Dutch authorities announced that 67 aid workers were headed for Beirut, including doctors, police officers and firefighters. Topics :last_img read more