Rotorua Daily Post health and business reporter

Rentia extends her knowing touch

Rentia De Vries knows the importance of touch more than others.

The Rotorua 19-year-old was born without eyes, but she hasn't let being blind stop her from pursuing her goals.

Now thanks to a Dillon Scholarship from the BayTrust, Miss De Vries will have one less obstacle to overcome as she studies to be a massage therapist.

The condition, known as bilateral anophthalmia affects about one in every 200,000 people.

She will receive $2000 this year towards her Certificate in Massage, which she will study through WINTEC from home via distance learning.

Miss De Vries said she knew how relaxing massage could be - and it was that relaxing touch that she wanted to pass on to others.

She has been volunteering her time doing hand massage at local rest homes as a way of giving back to the community and plans to extend that and eventually forge a career out of massage therapy.

Her support person, Sally Goddard, who acts at Miss De Vries' "eyes", said massage therapy was an ideal career choice.

Miss Goddard has supported Miss De Vries through her study for the past couple of years and will continue to help her as she studies for her certificate.

Another recipient was Shannon Kahika-van der Heijden.

Scholarship winners battling the odds

Miss Kahika-van der Heijden, who has Turner syndrome, received $3000 for the final year of her Bachelor of Computing.

She received extra funding this year because of her good grades last year and said she was pleased to have her achievements recognised.

Having health problems made studying a bit more challenging, but Miss Kahika-van der Heijden said she was looking forward to completing her degree and getting off the invalids benefit and into the work force.

BayTrust awarded $10,000 in Dillon Scholarships to five successful Rotorua applicants this week and $105,050 overall to 56 applicants across the Bay of Plenty.

The other Rotorua recipients were Kyle Burling and Jordyn McLean who received $2000 each, and Kim Wilson who received a $1000 scholarship.

The scholarship's objective is to provide financial assistance to people who have disabilities and are undertaking tertiary education.

Recipients can receive up to $5000 a year for up to four years.

The scholarship is offered every year with the successful applicants chosen by a committee.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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