From the start of 2019 to September 2020, Rosa gradually lost her sight due to her hereditary diabetes and complications with her kidneys. During this time she also suffered cardiac arrests on three different occasions, and her husband, Junior, had been told to consider preparing her funeral arrangements.
“I refused to accept that this was the end” Junior said. “I resigned from my job because I didn’t want to miss a moment with my wife.”
These months proved to be some of the most challenging of the family’s lives as Rosa went in and out of hospital several times.
“We’ve been together for 19 years and married for 13 of those. We have a strong bond between us, she can cry and I can console her. But for our 17 year old son to have to endure that, to have the weight of the world on his shoulders, it’s not what you envision for them to have to do.”
“During this time, Rosa and I discussed that there are so many others going through similar moments of disconnect the world over, that they may not be as resourceful or as practical as we are. This became the bedrock for Ikuna Voices.”
Fast forward to the present and both Junior and Rosa are currently preparing to hold the first performance of Ikuna Voices; a choir comprised entirely of people who are blind or have low vision.
“’Ikuna’ means ‘victory’ or ‘victorious’ in the South Pacific. It’s primarily used by Tongans to mean ‘triumph’.
“When we were discussing what to name the choir, we kept coming back to how we want this choir to allow people who have gone through an experience such as Rosa’s, to be able to express themselves and communicate how they are feeling” said Junior. “Communication and being able to hear and support each other is so important.”
The choir is comprised of people using their voices to sing out, and Junior hopes that that message, about the importance of communication and connection to your community, is one that will be shared and encompassed by the audience.
“Whoever needs it can come along and feel that positive connection. We’ll be performing songs like ‘You’re the Voice’ and ‘Lean on Me’, songs of encouragement and empowerment.”
“We want people to know they’re not alone. We want them to share their stories and see that the local community can really help each other. There’s a lot of services and help out there, and we want to help spread the word about them so they can help as many people as possible.”
Ikuna Voices will have their inaugural performance on Sunday March 28th between 3 and 5pm at the Crestmead PCYC in Crestmead, QLD. They will be performing on the final Sunday of every month. The carers, family, supporters and friends of blind and low vision people are also invited to join the choir should they wish. Entry is free for people who are blind or have low vision. More information can be found here.