Canadian siblings are seeing the world before they go blind — and they plan to visit Ireland

Canadian siblings are seeing the world before they go blind — and they plan to visit Ireland

Edith and Sebastien Lemay with their children, Mia, Leo, Colin, and Laurent at the Tirta Empul Temple in Bali, Indonesia. Picture courtesy of Edith Lemay

A group of Canadian siblings who are being taken by their parents to see the world before they go blind plan to include Ireland in their travels, according to their mother.

The children’s parents - Edith Lemay and Sebastien Pelletier - hope to show them some of the country’s most popular sights such as the Cliffs of Moher and the Giant’s Causeway, as well as our most famous castles.

“My kids really love castles,” Edith, whose current world trip has gone viral on social media, told the Irish Examiner from Indonesia.

Three of the couple's four children suffer from retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a rare genetic condition that causes a loss or decline in vision over time.

Leo Lemay enjoying the family’s hot-air balloon ride over Cappadocia in Turkey.
Leo Lemay enjoying the family’s hot-air balloon ride over Cappadocia in Turkey.

Their daughter and eldest child Mia was diagnosed with RP in 2017 aged seven. Some two years later, her young brothers Colin, 7, and Laurent, 5, were also diagnosed with the condition. The fourth sibling, Leo, 9, does not have RP.

“Our first reaction was disbelief and shock,” Edith said.

“When you have kids, you just have an idea of how their future is going to look, and what your life is going to look like.

“Then, all of a sudden, in the blink of an eye, you just need to rethink all that.

Colin Lemay got to meet some of the wildlife in Livingstone, Zambia. Picture: Edith Lemay
Colin Lemay got to meet some of the wildlife in Livingstone, Zambia. Picture: Edith Lemay

“At first you don’t believe it’s true, you think it is a mistake, then you get angry and you are looking for answers everywhere and you get sad.

“But, after a while, you just have to accept it and it is only when you accept it then you can actually move forward.”

Specialists at Mia’s school suggested Edith and Sebastien could help her to fill her mind with “visual memories”, and “put as many images in her head as you can”.

Edith and Sebastien Lemay with their children, Mia, Leo, Colin, and Laurent. Picture: Edith Lemay
Edith and Sebastien Lemay with their children, Mia, Leo, Colin, and Laurent. Picture: Edith Lemay

“She said, for example, she can look at elephants and giraffes in a book, so once she is blind, she will have an image to refer to,” Edith said.

“For me that is when it clicked, and when, in 2018, I thought to myself, ‘let’s go and show her elephants and giraffes in real life — that way she would really remember it’.

“And from that Seb and I decided we might as well do it all-in, and wanted to fill their visual memory with as many beautiful things as we could.”

The family had planned to leave in July 2020, but the trip was delayed because of the pandemic. They eventually left in March 2022.

Mia, Leo, Laurent, and Colin Lemay at the ancient Roman amphitheatre in Hierapolis near Pamukkale in Turkey. Picture: Edith Lemay
Mia, Leo, Laurent, and Colin Lemay at the ancient Roman amphitheatre in Hierapolis near Pamukkale in Turkey. Picture: Edith Lemay

Each child created their own bucket list of things they wanted to see. These include Mia wanting to go horseback riding, and Laurent wanting to drink juice on a camel.

The trip began in Montreal in March and has seen them visit Namibia, Zambia, and Tanzania, crossing Africa from the west coast to the east coast, all the way to Zanzibar overland.

The family also spent a month in Turkey and then went to Mongolia for six weeks, before they flew to Bali.

They are currently in Indonesia, from where they will “probably” go to Malaysia and then Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.

The Cliffs of Moher in Co Clare is one of the destinations the Lemay family would like to take in if a future leg of their world tour brings them to Ireland. File picture
The Cliffs of Moher in Co Clare is one of the destinations the Lemay family would like to take in if a future leg of their world tour brings them to Ireland. File picture

The family plan to return to Canada at some stage and then continue their globe-trotting adventures over the next couple of years.

“We are not planning to come to Ireland on this trip but one day for sure,” Edith said.

“My children love castles and we would be taking them around some of your best castles.

“But places like the Aran Islands, the Cliffs of Moher, and the Giant’s Causeway would be the kind of amazing scenery we want them to see.

“These and other places in Ireland look spectacular.”

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