My name is Charlotte Carson and I am the director of LOOK-UK – I hope you enjoy reading the first of many blogs.
I’m honoured to be the Director of LOOK as I have a very strong personal connection with the charity. LOOK was founded in 1991 by my incredible parents, Jennifer and Gareth Bowen, when I lost my sight at the age of 7. I was initially diagnosed with Stargardts disease, which was later re-diagnosed as Cone Rod Dystrophy. They, along with several courageous campaigning parents, founded LOOK in response to a lack of support for families. LOOK’s founding mission was to link families together from all over the UK to share experiences and support each other. Their ethos was families helping families, and we are now so proud to carry on this lineage in the form of our peer mentoring project, youth helping youth.
I’ve been in my role for nearly two years and LOOK’s mission remains as it has always done: to improve the lives of families with visually impaired children and young people. We are doing this through our peer-to-peer mentoring scheme (launched last year), providing support, information, and activities.
We are so lucky to have our office based in the Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford. I’ve hosted focus groups here, on Skype and networked with different organisations. I’ve been so impressed by the idealism, tenacity, and strength of all the students I’ve met. It felt right to create a project together, where we support each other. No one knows better than us, what we need and what we are going through.
Although many visually impaired people do lead full and interesting lives, they do face challenging times too – school can be tough, accessing an education, dealing with personal sight loss, and overcoming many social barriers too. I faced similar difficulties when I was at school nearly twenty years ago. I have spent my post-education years thinking there must be a better path through these transitional times and I learnt, through experience, that mentoring is the key.
I know from first-hand experience how beneficial a mentoring relationship can be for young VI people – it really can help gain the best outcomes in life and help us reach our full potential.
How do I know?
I am now registered blind and have a degree on useful vision. I can see outlines of objects and people and the rest of my vision is a blurry mess of colours and flashing lights. My sight is deteriorating and it fluctuates daily.
In my teens and into my twenties, I was introduced to a few key figures in my life, who were to have a significant, and long-lasting effect. These men and women became my mentors, guiding me through my tricky transitional years. They helped me believe in myself and to fulfil my dreams and ambitions.
The self-respect and confidence I learnt from my mentors remains with me to this day and, importantly, inspired me to launch LOOK’s mentor project last year. I know, from talking to young people, that there is a real and urgent need for a project like this. The benefit of a mentor is immeasurable and long-lasting. Sometimes, what really helps is just to talk to someone who understands what you are going through.
The project is starting online and we’ve currently trained up a team of experienced mentors, who are supporting young people aged 11 – 29 through our secure online mentoring platform. As this is a pilot project we will be evaluating its impact and we already can see terrific results. We have some really interesting projects in the pipeline too, news of which you can find on our website.
The essence of the LOOK Peer-to-Peer Mentoring Project is to provide support and help for young people with a visual impairment from an impartial mentor from outside the family, school, or college, who will neither judge nor dictate and who, most crucially, has been in the same position. It could be for you.
I know that together we can make a difference to many people’s lives. Purely from the power of kindred support. If you are interested to find out more about our project or get involved, then please get in touch.
I’ll be blogging on here again soon. If you are also interested to blog for us then please email firstname.lastname@example.org