Reunited thanks to VisAbility – a long lost friendship

Reunion stories can be so uplifting, when people meet as friends, form strong bonds, but then circumstances mean they lose touch before meeting again.

At VisAbility we have our own reunion story with an unusual twist.

Holiday program

As a child with a vision impairment, Marija Clark, Social Worker at VisAbility, participated in school holiday programs held by the Association for the Blind of WA. These programs were very similar to those run by VisAbility now.

“I remember that first one, I was about nine and I went with my sister, Slavica, who was two years older. We were taught by an orientation and mobility specialist how to take the bus and train from our home to Victoria Park,” she explains.

Marija Clark on bench next to Tanya Hinksman in garden
Marija Clark is reunited with Tanya Hinksman. The two met each other at the summer camps organised by the Association for the Blind of WA in the 1980s.

It was a great social event and the two sisters made many friends on that holiday program.

“There was one girl, Tanya, who was about three years older than me. Meeting her was significant as she was the first person I’d come across who had albinism like me.”

“Tanya was really cool. She was confident and I was rather quiet. During the program we were introduced to important things – such as applying eye lash tint!” laughs Marija.

One clear memory was when they all went to Adventure World.

“We were sitting in the back of the bus, and we were all laughing as the bus driver who took us there kept us amused with silly childish jokes – it was a fun day out!,” recalls Marija.

Losing touch

In the mid-1980s, there was no internet, no Facebook and mobile phones were only just being developed. It wasn’t as easy as it is now to stay in touch. Marija and Tanya lived in different suburbs, which were miles apart. They enjoyed three years of holiday programs but then lost touch.

Time moved on and Marija graduated from university, became a social worker and took up a role at VisAbility, married and had children. In the meantime in another corner of Perth, Tanya worked in call centres before becoming a workplace trainer.

Recently Tanya decided to change careers and decided to pursue her passion to work among people with disabilities. She wanted to develop programs, so she could take up a position as an activities co-ordinator. Tanya offered to undertake some volunteering work at VisAbility to help her to secure future work.

Tanya and Marija stand in front of the former Association for the Blind WA building in Sunbury Road in Victoria Park.Reconnecting

On the first day at VisAbility, she met a woman named Liz who had also attended the holiday program all those years ago. She mentioned to Tanya that Marija was working here.

“When I heard that, I couldn’t believe it. We had formed such a great bond as youngsters, I couldn’t wait to see her again. We met for lunch and conversation flowed easily,” Tanya says.

“It was as if the holiday program was yesterday, everything came flooding back.”

Now they’ve reconnected, they’ve promised each other they’ll stay in touch and have been busy catching up on those missed years.

VisAbility still provides and arranges a variety of social events and holiday programs for young people. Similarly to Marija and Tanya, children form friendships and some of these extend into adult life.

Find out more about the services we offer to children and youth. Our skill is empowering children and young people so they feel better connected and engaged to participate in those activities they’ve always wanted to do.