What a year it’s been at LOOK. We ran LOOKFest (our first ever accessible family festival) reached out to schools with employment and World of Difference workshops and have seen both mentees and mentors thrive on our growing mentoring scheme. Each of the LOOK team share their highlights of the year and also give a sneak peek of what’s to come in 2020!

picture of elin smiling and wearing a look hoodie.

Elin Williams: Events Coordinator

My name is Elin and I am the Events Coordinator here at LOOK. My role is to organise a programme of events for families and young people that complement the mentoring project, including school workshops, mentor trainings and family weekends.

My obvious highlight of 2019 has to be LOOKFest! the first VI accessible family festival we held in July this year. It’s probably obvious that we dream big here at LOOK, the biggest and most ambitious dream of all being LOOKFest. I’m so proud of what a huge achievement LOOKFest was for everyone involved; we worked extremely hard and really pulled together as a team to put on a fun-filled weekend. A lot of thought and planning went into ensuring the festival site was as accessible as possible, and I learned so much from that experience which I can put into future work. I’m also really proud of how we included VI mentors as volunteers for the festival, and how much of a positive impact having the mentors around was for the families attending. So many parents commented afterwards how great it was to have VI role models for their children to look up to, which is really what we strive for in everything we do. LOOKFest felt like it really embodied the family feeling of LOOK, and I can’t wait to do it all again next year!

a black and white picture of ruth smiling.

Ruth Storey: Mentor Project Coordinator

I am Ruth Storey and I coordinate the mentor project here at LOOK. I also work on the schools workshops and local VI support here in Herefordshire as well as being part of the team at our wonderful events.

2019 has been incredible in terms of what the LOOK community have been involved with. I have really valued the way in which our mentoring project has grown during 2019 with 2 residential mentor training events and a growing staff team with Amy and Chris joining in the nick of time for LOOKFest. My highlight has been supporting young people develop the confidence and space to express their feelings. I feel incredibly privileged to have a job in which people trust me and LOOK with their worries and challenges and that we can provide the space, the time and connections to find solutions to challenges of growing up with a visual impairment. Witnessing a mentee and mentor meet for the first time at a LOOK event this summer was magical and solidified the partnership and community the pair had developed through their mentoring messaging.

I know that the young people we support are developing confidence in finding ways to self-advocate, finding a community and developing self-belief in who they are as a VIP. Every day I hear from mentors who express their message of being proud of themselves as a disabled person. Helping them to spread this message and develop self-worth in younger VIPs is a vital and rewarding impact for me and the LOOK team.

2020 will be action packed. I cannot wait for more workshops and face to face mentoring events where mentors and young people can discuss studying, access to employment and training and share ideas. I am looking forward to investing more in our wonderful mentor team with further training and development in them and their skills. Merry Christmas and we cannot wait for more LOOK opportunities in 2020.

picture of amy looking to camera wearing a stipe shirt.

Amy Lunt

Hi, I’m Amy – Mentor Project Officer. I started working with LOOK UK in late July 2019. I’m employed three days a week to work on the national mentoring project; supporting mentors and mentees, making mentor matches, running training and events etc.  I also have a role in family engagement locally – developing networks, opportunities, support and a program of activities for children, young people, young adults and families in Herefordshire. 

Some of the highlights for me this year have been; being involved in delivering the brilliant mentor training weekend in Buxton in November, meeting and learning from a fantastic and talented group of VI mentors! Listening to people’s life experiences and better understanding the challenges that people with a visual impairment can face. 

I have also greatly valued being part of the amazing team of LOOK staff, mentors and volunteers – the team that made the fabulous LOOK Fest, mentor projects and all LOOK initiatives such a success this year. 

It has been fabulous meeting local families, children, young adults and mentors – getting to know people, hearing their journeys and getting people together at local activities to have fun, talk together and share experiences. The impact of getting people together, connecting and sharing can’t be underestimated.

In the next couple of weeks I will be looking forward to delivering a day of schools workshops in a Herefordshire High School, with LOOK staff and mentors to help raise awareness of VI and develop understanding and empathy amongst sighted peers.

For 2020 I am very much looking forward to finding and connecting with more families in Herefordshire, building support and the LOOK family and program of activities in the county. I’m super excited about LOOK Fest 2020 and helping to shape more excellent mentor training, mentor connections, support and events! 

becky smiling to camera, behind her is a decorated christmas tree.

Becky Strzadala

My name is Becky Strzadala and I am the new office administrator at LOOK. I started here in April and have been involved in some really exciting events already. Two weeks after I started, I went down to London to support the marathon runners and had an amazing day. The marathon runners were so inspiring, and they had put a huge amount of effort into fundraising and training, all to support LOOK. Such a fantastic experience to meet these people and toast to their success. Bring on the London Marathon 2020! 

In May, I was involved with moving our Hereford office into the Fred Bulmer Centre and it’s been lovely to meet new colleagues from other charity organisations based in the building. We are fully settled into our new office now and we are enjoying the new space. 

A highlight for me personally has been working with visually impaired people and meeting mentors and other young VIPs. I have been on a huge learning journey in terms of discovering the world of visual impairment. I really had no idea before starting at LOOK just how many eye conditions there were, and I have learnt so much over the last 6 months. 

In the new year, I’m looking forward to setting up new systems for the office, streamlining the way we work and most importantly meeting new VIPs!  

picture of chris smiling

Chris Styles

Hi, my name is Chris Styles, and I am one of the Project Officers on the mentoring program at Look UK. I am partially sighted because of the condition Retinitis Pigmentosa. I am a long cane user, I participate in different kinds of VI sports, football, rugby, cricket and athletics. 

One of my highlights of 2019 is becoming a Project Officer for Look UK, after years of volunteering and mentoring for them. Another highlight was starting the #LoveMyCane campaign- an idea I previously had thought of early in the year. This involved a social media campaign, starting on international white cane day (15thOctober), where young VI people were encouraged to talk about their relationships with their canes. Leading visually impaired Influencers have contributed, with blogs and videos on how they feel about this subject. 

My work with the schools workshops, mentor training and moving to an office in New College Worcester has allowed me to reach a variety of VI young people. 2019 has been a year of learning, achieving and frustrations, which play a part in everyone’s lives. But by talking, and sharing our thoughts with the world, we can strive to be better and to share the happiness with people around us. This year was not only about things I have done, but as seen in the cane campaign, or mentor training, it was mainly about what other people have done, how they faced their personal barriers, and spoke about their issues and life with others. That is what, in my personal opinion, is the most important achievement of 2019.

kevin smiling in a look t shirt

Kevin Satizabal 

My name is Kevin Satizabal and I’m the Marketing and Communications Coordinator here at LOOK. My role is to share LOOK’s work through press and online, via our email newsletter, social media channels and the LOOK website.

My highlights for the year have been documenting the great time families and young people had at LOOKFest and working with visually impaired influencers on the Love My Cane campaign. People love LOOK’s friendly and welcoming vibe, which is something I try to put across whenever we post on social media. People don’t go on social media to be marketed to, they go to be entertained and informed.  If people come to our channels and learn about life with visual impairment, find out how we can help and have been entertained and inspired in some way at the same time, then I consider it a job well done.

picture of megan smiling

Megan Barker

I’m Megan, the Operations Manager at Look. 

It has been such a busy and exciting year, with so many plans coming to fruition and so many new connections made. It is very exciting to watch the LOOK community grow with each day.  

There have been so many highlights I don’t know where to start. There is so much to celebrate! Lookfest, schools workshops, the growing number of fabulous mentors and mentees we are supporting… But there is also so much to look forward to. Much of my role is about planning for the future and 2020 is set to be a fantastic year. We have a brilliant schedule of events lined up, as well as some collaborations with very exciting partner organisations. One of these is Jamie’s Farm, a wonderful charity offering unique residential experiences for disadvantaged young people, combining farming, family and therapy. We are working with them to create a residential programme specificallydesigned for VIYPs, to build confidence, increase independence and enjoy all the benefits of outdoor living, to be piloted in 2020. Another partner is Devils Violin, an award-winning storytelling company who will help our young people learn the craft of storytelling: help them to find the unique tales they have to tell and develop the confidence to tell them. Our group will also get the chance to perform alongside them on the British tour of their upcoming show, The Beast in Me. I can’t wait and I am so happy to be part of the loving and supportive LOOKfamily.

All that’s left for us to say, is thank you for your support, and for getting involved with LOOK. Have a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!