Supporting Parents and Carers of children with a Visual Impairment
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Posts Tagged ‘Achievements’

What’s it like to live and work abroad when you have a visual impairment?

October 25th, 2017 / View in own page?

We are back with a new blog post for you from one of our fabulous members, Elin. For years, Elin wanted to live and work abroad but didn’t know if it would be possible due to her visual impairment.

In this post, Elin discusses how she’s done exactly that!

If you’d told me last October that within the year I’d be living in a foreign country, I would have laughed with disbelief. Because, I’m blind. And even though living and working abroad has been a life-long dream for me for as long as I can remember, I’ve always told myself to try to be realistic. After all, let’s face it; living abroad is tough for anyone, let alone a visually impaired girl from Wales with a guide dog alongside. Turns out I was wrong though, because here I am… living and working in Belgium and learning French as I go.

Last Autumn I was twiddling my thumbs after graduation wanting to embark on the next great adventure but wasn’t really clear on the details of what that adventure would be. I’d been googling various combinations of the words ‘volunteering’ ‘abroad’ and ‘disability’ for weeks without finding anything that seemed suitable. Trying to find an opportunity that fit my long-term career aspirations, as well as meeting my access needs and being reasonable for my guide dog was a little tricky. In a last-ditch attempt before resigning myself to the job centre I emailed my CV to a handful of European organisations asking about work experience, but never received any replies.

Weeks later I got an out of the blue phone call from a European phone number, that turned out to be an Italian girl called Clara contacting me to tell me all about the volunteering project she was currently participating in. She was at the time working for VIEWS International as part of her adapted European Voluntary Service Programme and after seeing my email had decided to call me to tell me about the EVS programme. She told me all about how the projects in Liege are specifically adapted for visually impaired people to include things like mobility and accessible language courses to suit the individual’s needs. I remember ending that phone call and being absolutely stunned. It sounded so perfect, so right that I almost didn’t believe it. In fact, I proceeded to apply for the programme without telling anyone but my boyfriend. Partly because I thought my parents would freak out, and partly because if it didn’t work out I wouldn’t have to admit it.

Clara told me that to be eligible for the programme I needed a sending association from my own country that would effectively sponsor me to participate in the programme. She said that VIEWS International had collaborated with a charity called Look UK in the past and that they might be the best people to ask about this. Before we hung up she also casually mentioned that I only had a month left to get my application in on time if I wanted to try for the 2017/18 programme.

Amazingly, as soon as I approached Look with this crazy plan, they immediately jumped on board and couldn’t do enough to help, despite Charlotte (CEO) having never heard of the EVS programme or their responsibilities as sending association beforehand. The team even went so far as to help complete my application with me by writing as I dictated over the phone, because my laptop had conveniently decided to go on the blink at this most crucial point.

Something I was mostly concerned about was the language requirements for the programme. An accessible language course was being included in the project, but they strongly advised you to have a working understanding of French before you started your placement. Having scraped a D in my French GCSE, this was something of a worry for me. Look immediately set to helping me find accessible online language tutoring, they put me in touch with a French teacher who was willing to conduct lessons with me over Skype and they introduced me to one of their volunteers who is a native French speaker so that I could practice conversation. In addition, Charlotte and Megan were incredibly supportive throughout the whole application and preparation process. There was a period of time when I’d been offered a place, but that funding implications meant that it was unconfirmed as to whether I’d be able to participate. The Look team stayed in contact with me throughout, helped facilitate conversations between me and my hosting association in Belgium when I had questions and did their best to alleviate any and all of my concerns.

I am especially grateful to them for accompanying me on my ‘advanced preparatory visit’ to Liege, Belgium. A few weeks before my official start date on the programme, I was offered the opportunity to visit where I’d be living and working in Belgium in advance of moving there, in order to prepare appropriately. Even though this opportunity was a dream come true, the nerves had started to get to me a bit and I was feeling very anxious about the whole thing. Luckily, the APV went amazingly well; I felt much more assured and comfortable and a big part of that is thanks to Megan and Charlotte being there with me to ask the questions I might not have thought to ask.

So now I’ve been here almost three weeks. The first two weeks of induction were very intensively focused on receiving lots of mobility and French lessons and as a result I’m now able to get to work on my own and hold a reasonable conversation in French. This week I’ve started volunteering for VIEWS International and in the coming weeks I’ll begin volunteering at a local youth centre for refugees as well. I’m living in an apartment with two other volunteers, an Italian girl and a French guy, and I’m happy to say we get on very well. There is a fantastic support network here of people ready to help with anything from doing the weekly food shop to finding the nearest dance classes. What’s all the more humbling for me is that all of these people, from my mobility instructor to my French teacher, are helping me and my housemates completely voluntarily. My overall impressions of my new home are that people are extremely helpful here; strangers greet you like an old friend and as a rule people will offer help before you have to ask for it.

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LOOK-UK mentors win national award

July 26th, 2017 / View in own page?

On Wednesday 5th July, we attended the Brightside Trust Mentoring awards and thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

Some of LOOK’s mentors and mentees were shortlisted for two awards; mentee of the year and mentoring pair of the year.

We are delighted to inform you that Danielle and Jack won mentoring pair of the year! They were presented with a certificate and engraved trophy. This is a big achievement for LOOK and our mentors and mentees as our mentoring project is still in its pilot year.

A huge thank you to the Brightside Trust for the nomination and for such a wonderful evening.

Have a listen to the audio below which is of Danielle and Jack winning their award.

 

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Celebrations at LOOK-UK as mentors are nominated for national award

June 30th, 2017 / View in own page?

Still in its pilot year, LOOK-UK’s mentors are making it an awards season, as some have been nominated for a national award. This is thrilling news for our mentors and mentees, whose names are up for the Brightside Trust Mentoring Award.

The Brightside Trust mentoring awards celebrate the inspiring stories of mentors and mentees nationwide. It works with over 9,000 mentees and 4,000 mentors across 60 projects, and has received 130 nominations for awards. A fantastic achievement for LOOK’s mentors. Winning mentors and mentees will be presented with a certificate and engraved trophy on the night. And the dress code is smart but not black tie

LOOK is delighted their efforts have been recognised. Of the nominees, Harriet has been shortlisted for the mentee of the year award, and Danielle and Jack have been shortlisted for mentoring pair of the year. You can find more information on the awards here. You can check out the shortlist for the awards  here. A huge thank you to Brightside Trust for this nomination and well done to our mentors and mentees. We wish them the best of luck.

Have a listen to the audio below, recorded by our Mentoring Coordinator, Megan Barker who discusses why these fantastic individuals and partnerships have been nominated for a Brightside Trust Mentoring Award.

Harriet – mentee of the year

Danielle and Jack – mentoring pair of the year

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Stress Stress Stress!

April 27th, 2017 / View in own page?

Harriet is one of our fabulous LOOK members. Through our mentoring project she has been matched with a mentor who is supporting her to achieve her goals.

She is currently preparing for her GCSE’s and deals with the added pressure of having both a visual and hearing impairment.

in this video she talks about the different types of stress and gives tips on how to cope with it.

Make sure you check out our other posts on stress! If you would like to know more about the mentoring project please email mentor@look-uk.org

 

 

We’d love for you to get involved in our theme of the month. Why not answer our questions:
What stresses you out?
Does your sight loss stress you out?
If so, how and how do you deal with it?
How do you deal with stress?
What do you do to de-stress and relax?
Let us know in the comments on the above YouTube video or contact us on Facebook or Twitter

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Am I Inspirational?

April 13th, 2017 / View in own page?

In her first blog post for LOOK, our Project Worker, Holly Tuke, discusses whether she sees herself as being inspirational. Holly is blind due to a condition called Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), and knows first hand what life is like as a young person with sight loss.

I’ve often been called an “inspiration”, and when that happens I feel humbled. But to be completely honest, I don’t think I am inspirational at all, I’m just an average blind girl who is trying to get to where she wants to be in life, and, along the way, achieve her goals. I stuck to these goals when I went through mainstream school. It was tough at times, and I didn’t give up without a fight when things went wrong, which they often did. But that’s just the person I am. I’m now in my final few months of university. I believe having a degree will present me with better life opportunities and help me find a good job. I want to do well in life and make my family proud. I am currently balancing my university work with my part-time job with LOOK, and other commitments too, but I don’t think any of these makes me particularly, ’inspirational’. I do these things because I enjoy them, but also to achieve the best I can in the future and to improve my life chances.

Picture of Holly

If anyone wants to call me inspirational then I am honoured. Personally, I think there are far more inspirational people than me, individuals who have, for example, saved people’s lives and have a positive attitude about everything.
The word ‘inspirational’ can be a funny one. I know a lot of disabled people absolutely hate being labelled with it. They don’t understand why they’re perceived to be inspirational when they are just trying to live normal lives. But the truth is, non-disabled people will never fully understand what it’s like to have a disability and, in all likelihood, never will.

I’m at a point in my life where I am happy with the person I am, I know what I want to achieve and where I want to get to, I know my strengths and weaknesses and I like to think I am a good, positive and caring person.
I’ve done a lot of charity work and volunteering over the last few years and recently started my first job as a Project Worker for LOOK. It’s just the sort of position I’ve always wanted. I believe that I am not only gaining experience for my future career but I am also helping others. I am keen to help others in the same situation as me and facing similar struggles to me, because I know how hard it can be to live with a disability every single day. I know how hard it can be when all you want is to see the beauty in this world but you can’t. I know how isolated it can make you feel. I know what it’s like to constantly fight for equality. But I also know the beauty having a disability can have. I believe that having a visual impairment has made me a stronger person, it’s most certainly made me who I am today. Would I be doing what I am doing now if I didn’t have a disability? I don’t know, but if you look beyond society’s perceptions, having a disability isn’t all bad. If you think about it hard enough, the positives can actually outweigh the negatives.

I’ve been blogging for over two years now and my blog, ‘Life of a Blind Girl’ is going places I never thought it would. I started blogging in the hope to raise awareness of disability and to help others that might need a bit of support. That has been the aim of my blog and blogging for LOOK has helped me reach that goal even more. Whether I help one person or 200, I don’t mind. Helping others, passing on my advice and providing people with some support or motivation is so important.
Blogging has also given me the chance to make new friends, some of whom are blind and visually impaired like myself.
If anyone is interested in starting a blog or writing a guest blog post for LOOK then I would encourage you to do so, it’s so important to get your voice heard. Blogging is one of the best decisions that I have made.

When I graduate from university I want to continue blogging and working for LOOK or within the sight loss sector to support as many young vision impaired people as I can. I want them to know that having a disability doesn’t have to be a barrier. Does this make me inspirational? I’ll let you decide.
If you enjoyed Holly’s post then head over to our useful links page where you can check out her blog!

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