2008 News Archive

Un Dia Den Bida Clarification: Dr. J. D. Ferwerda

It has come to the attention of The Laura And Wagner Foundation (LWF) that a number of people who watched Poentje Castro’s recent interview with LWF Founder Laura de Haseth Meddens on his TV program ‘Un Dia Den Bida’ misheard a portion of the interview.

As a result, the eye clinic of Dr. John D. Ferwerda received some phone calls from concerned patients who thought that Laura said he was the doctor who damaged her eyesight. She didn't say Dr. Ferwerda was that doctor

Laura did say that Dr. Ferwerda was the specialist on the island for treating people with Diabetic Retinopathy, but because it was mentioned very quickly after the statement about the damage to her eyesight, some viewers who weren’t listening carefully mistakenly linked the two comments.

Laura wants to make it very clear that Dr. Ferwerda is the only specialist on the island that she trusts her eyecare to because of the fact that he is very meticulous about keeping up to date with the latest research and techniques, and will also refer patients to other specialists in the Netherlands for additional information or consultations.

Dr. Ferwerda was also the first person approached to accept a position on the Advisory Board of the LWF.

Laura regrets that some members of the viewing audience ‘rushed to judgment’ after misinterpreting that portion of the interview and apologizes to Dr. Ferwerda for any professional and personal embarrassment it caused him. She has requested that Poentje Castro make appropriate changes to the program to prevent a recurrence of this when the interview airs again.

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Samenwerkende Fondsen Support LWF

The Cooperating Foundations of the Netherlands Antilles (Samenwerkende Fondsen Nederlandse Antillen en Aruba) have announced an initial grant supporting the efforts of The Laura And Wagner Foundation to raise awareness about ending the social isolation of disabled people in Curaçao through the use of Guide/Assistance Dogs and other resources.

This initial grant will help fund the cost of promotional materials including flyers, billboards and public service announcements for radio and television distribution.
The Board of Directors of The Laura And Wagner Foundation are grateful to the local Advisory Board/ Adviescollege Curaçao of the Samenwerkende Fondsen Nederlandse Antillen en Aruba, and wish to particulary thank Mr. Victor J. Salas, Project Advisor and Mrs. Sonya Pasman for their kind assistance during the application process.

The charities involved

The Oranje Fonds, Stichting Kinderpostzegels Nederland and Skanfonds together form the Cooperating Foundations. Their area of work is the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In the Netherlands, the charities operate separately. However, on the Antilles and Aruba joining forces has many advantages. For example, local organisations have a central point of contact for support. And together, the charities can make even more of a difference to projects on the islands.


Website Oranje Fonds   |    Website Kinderpostzegels Nederland    |   Website Skanfonds

The Oranje Fonds is the largest social fund in the Netherlands. Our area of operations covers the Netherlands, Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles, and our work involves financing various organisations that request funds for certain projects. This may be shelter for the homeless, for abused women or former addicts as well as activities at children’s playgroups, multicultural events or information for the children’s help line.

The Oranje Fonds was created in 2002 when it was presented to the Prince of Orange and Princess Máxima on the occasion of their wedding. They are our patrons and are also closely involved in the Fund and our area of activity. In the year it was founded, the Fund merged with the Juliana Welfare Fund, which has been active in the social sector since 1948.

The funds raised by the annual Children’s Stamp Campaign are used to support hundreds of projects every year for children in the Netherlands and abroad. Kinderpostzegels Nederland believes that all children are entitled to develop and flourish personally.

Skanfonds offers those in vulnerable positions the opportunity to take part in society. Since the charity was founded in 1957 it has financed projects which enable this. It has an annual budget of around € 8 million available for this. Skanfonds uses this money to fund wonderful initiatives which are aimed at improving people’s quality of life.  


ISC Students Sell Paw Prints To Help The LWF

Another highlight this month was a return visit to the International School of Curaçao where students who are part of the National Junior Honour Society presented Laura and Wagner with a cheque for 870 NAfl, the result of fund raising drive. As NJHS Adviser Maya Garcia explained, “ This is a group of intelligent, motivated students in grade 7 through 9 who group together to do service work. When I asked the students which organization they wanted to raise money for, they named two: Dierenasiel and The Laura And Wagner Foundation.
With this animal theme we ran a school-wide fund raising drive. For each 5 guilders that was donated, a coloured square with a paw print was posted on bulletin boards to thank the giver for helping out. The students in the photograph cut the paper into squares, manned donation tables and motivated their peers to donate to worthy causes”.

Some particular students showed tremendous leadership during this effort and for initiating a school-wide petition drive to help with the LWF's campaign for guide/assistance dog access legislation. For security reasons, we have not published their names, but their efforts are very much appreciated.

Laura thanked Maya and the students for their thoughtful and generous efforts and promised to return soon for another visit to help raise awareness about the Foundation’s work.


Opening Children's Eyes to Wagner and Reading

 Laura de Haseth Meddens and her guide dog Wagner have been busy ‘opening eyes’ with students of all ages in Curaçao. Recently they paid a visit to Laura And Wagner Foundation Chairman Reyna Joe’s weekly reading group at her Bright Park children’s facility.

Laura told the children about her experiences of learning to work with Wagner after she lost much of her eyesight and then listened to the children taking turns reading from a book about dogs.

The children were eager to ask questions such as, “how do you put your earrings on”, or “how do you get dressed”, and were very impressed when Laura showed them she could dial a mobile phone behind her back.

After learning more about guide and assistance dogs, the children had a chance to test Wagner’s retrieving abilities in the playground, since he is a Golden retriever. They were all very impressed and eager for Laura and Wagner to make a return visit.


Opening Eyes And Opening Doors in Aruba

 Laura and Wagner, took the LWF’s petition campaign for equal access rights legislation for guide dogs to Aruba this week.

From their flight over on Insel Air, through their stay at the Hotel Riu Palace, their appearances on TV and radio programs hosted by Tito Lacle and Poentje Castro, and an article in Bon Dia Aruba to their return on Tiara Air, Laura and Wagner opened many eyes to the benefits a guide dog provides to someone with a disability.

Fellow passengers, as well as airline staff were impressed by how well Wagner, a golden retriever trained by The Seeing Eye in the United States, handled the short flight in a small aircraft without any problems.

Fellow guests at the Riu Palace were similarly impressed by how well Wagner guided Laura around the hotel grounds, amenities and restaurants, and beach areas.

 In fact their stay at the hotel, arranged by Bon Dia Aruba GM Grace Mary Maduro was very timely, because Riu Palace GM Richard Velasco had just received a request for a visit by a Canadian family which included their son’s guide dog.

The hotel’s reservations desk had initially refused the request, but Mr.Velasco was able to rectify the matter after learning more about guide dogs from Laura's website. He and co-GM Lelianne Bakens and their staff went out of their way to ensure Laura and Wagner’s stay was a memorable one, and were quick to take action when a security guard and a member of the housekeeping staff had challenged Wagner’s right to be on the property.

During the trip, Laura met with Mieke de Droog, Directora of FAVI (Fundacion Arubano di Esnan Visualmente Incapacita) and her associate Cetty Baaeh-Bijlhout, who expressed their support for the LWF’s awareness and legislation campaigns.

They also discussed the challenges of introducing the concept of service dogs to Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles where poor infrastructure and negative social attitudes towards dogs have been barriers to more widespread use of these specially trained assistance animals.

Laura reiterated her determination to help end the social isolation of disabled persons, and talked with a young man who had lost his vision in a fireworks accident, pledging to help him obtain a guide dog, after being introduced to him by TV Host Poentje Castro.

While in Aruba, Laura shot some additional video sequences with Poentje and his cameraman to show how Wagner behaves while he's traveling.

Many eyes opened wide while Wagner navigated Palm Beach as he guided Laura around sunbathers there and around the Riu Palace Hotel pool and patio area for the TV camera.

Then it was back to Curaçao to prepare to gather more signatures for the equal access petition during the Harbour Days festival in Willemstad.
Members of the public can also sign the petition online at LauraAndWagner.org and on our Sign the Petition page.



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Rare Helen Keller Photo Found

The Laura And Wagner Foundation Launches

Curaçao-born Laura de Haseth Meddens announces the formation of The Laura and Wagner Foundation (LWF). It is a Curaçao-based, non-profit organization whose mission is to serve as an advocate for blind and visually impaired, and disabled people in the Netherlands Antilles and lobby for Guide Dog access legislation.


Researchers Close To Creating Bionic Eye

Scientists at the Boston Retinal Implant Project recently developed an implant that will help those with degenerative blindness see again.  The implant, while not a complete bionic eye, is said to be a huge step forward in that direction and works by transmitting light to the brain via a tiny nerve after implant at the back of the eye.


Son's Tooth Helps Blind Irishman Regain Vision

Two years after being blinded by a freak accident at a recycling business, 57 year old Bob McNichol can see again. After doctors in Ireland wrote him off, he learned about a "miracle operation" being performed by Dr. Christopher Liu at a hospital in Brighton, England. The operation used his 23 year old son's tooth to hold a lens. 


Police "Compromise" on Ping Yali's Guide Dog

Ping Yali, China's first Paralympic gold medalist continues to run into bureaucratic obstacles in Beijing with her guide dog Lucky. Police there have reached a compromise with the 2008 Olympic Torch bearer, but she was refused access to her Olympic sponsor's Ball at a local hotel. Each day brings advances and setbacks. 


2008  "The Year of the Assistance Dog"

A UK charity initiative has named 2008 the year of the assistance dog and it will give out awards to establishments which are most guide dog-friendly. New charity Assistance Dogs UK (ADUK) is a combination of the efforts of Canine Partners, Dogs for the Disabled, Guide Dogs, Hearing Dogs and Support Dogs and promotes access to services for assistance dog users.