EYE INSPIRE; Emerging Proud through Eye Sight Loss, to be launched on Thursday 8th Oct, World Sight Day 2020

Each unique story included within this book demonstrates resilience and the ability to overcome obstacles at the highest level.  We know that the power of sport can change lives for the better but the powers of self-belief and courage of conviction can help change the world.

Alaina MacGregor, CEO of British Blind Sport

A note about this pocketbook

Are you a visually impaired person who just does not feel that there are any opportunities open to you? Are you a parent of a visually impaired young person, and at a loss for how to encourage your child to believe in themselves? Are you a charity that works with visually impaired young people and believes that hearing experiences of others will help inspire your youth group, or individuals and families you work with? Or, indeed, are you a sighted person who wants to hear amazing examples of triumph over adversity, to encourage you back on the path of positive mental attitude? During these times, we all need positivity, and this book has it in abundance.

In this fifth edition of our Pocketbooks of Hope and Transformation series, you’ll discover many stories of people who have felt just like you: life does not come to a halt or have to be restricted just because it throws a huge challenge our way.

All of these amazing faces experience impaired vision. Many of them experienced delayed or lengthy diagnosis periods, sometimes completely misdiagnosed. Indeed, many have experienced huge setbacks, have felt alienated, and that their life had no purpose or direction.

But all of these people have achieved amazing things, rediscovered and adapted a previous skill, or found a new passion and started to believe in themselves again.

Fancy hearing some positive stories for a change?

Come to the online launch this Thursday, 8th Oct, at 6 – 7.30pm UK – watch live via Facebook at;

https://www.facebook.com/eyeinspire2020

You can pre- order the book on Amazon;

Kindle version the Paperback will be available to order any day, keep your eye out!

Don’t forget to follow Rep Yvette on social media to follow all of the news; podcasts and events to come!

https://eyeinspire.org/

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A follow- up series to the original #EmergingProud film is here!

A Call to Awakening is a series of films, inspired by and made during the COVID-19 pandemic, about our times and how to navigate a changing world.


Directed by the talented Sameer Patel, these short films are about our individual and collective awakening and how we can use crisis to awaken and find our calling in order to make the world a better place. They are made from the interviews of those who themselves have experienced transformation, and now work in fields from psychology to human rights and spiritual healing. 

The first short film ‘THE AWAKENING’ is about how we can individually use this current crisis to awaken and transform.

The second short film ‘THE CALL’ is about how we can take that inner work and start to do the work outside, finding our purpose and working collectively together.


The last part of this series ‘THE VISION’ will be about ideas for a new society, and how we can create and sustain a more hopeful vision for the future.

You can sign up to watch the first 2 films and to follow the news about our third, here;

https://www.a-call-to-awakening.com/

And there’s more encouraging news for our Spiritual Emergence Community;

Our friends and colleagues Catherine Lucas, Mick Collins, Kylie Harris and Paul Levy have written an Open Letter to declare a state of GLOBAL SPIRITUAL CRISIS

The open letter calls for greater awareness and action to tackle the burgeoning global state of emergency that is rapidly engulfing the world. We believe that the spiritual emergence/emergency – SE(Y) – community, has an important role to play in assisting a collective process of transformation in these tumultuous times.

Read the open letter and sign the petition here: https://medium.com/illumination/the-rebirth-of-people-and-planet-in-a-time-of-global-emergency-ce83d222c813

Once this petition reaches 100,000 signatures, it will be sent to the UN as a message from concerned citizens to declare a state of planetary emergency.

Watch the podcast explaining the rationale behind the open letter, airing daily over the next week:https://caravanofunity.eu/event/the-rebirth-of-people-planet-in-a-time-of-global-emergency/2020-09-13/

Please do share these links widely with your networks. Thank you SO much for your support. Together we absolutely can create ‘the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible’!

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Sidra is Kinda Proud that she knows herself well enough to make it a superpower

Sidra is now happy to be herself, and so she should be! Her hardships – grief and pain due to a debilitating sight condition – have made her very wise, and she lives life with the healthy concept that, if things don’t go the way we think we want them to, then that’s because life has a better plan for us. Here Sidra shares the journey that brought her to this belief…

The Journey

Who am I? Is the question I asked myself at different points within my life and today I can say I have found somewhat of an answer, in order for me to tell you that answer I have to take you on a short journey.

1988 born within East London, a Muslim, British, Asian, female. I was brought up as an only child, with wonderful loving parents with unique stories of their own. Teaching from my mother and father has shaped me as a person, from a young age I remember sitting with my father listening to stories about Islamic history and stories of the prophets from the Quran. Sabr (Patience), Hikmah (Wisdom), Tawkkul (Trust in Allah) and Qadr (Decree of Allah) were all part of my life from a very young age, understanding of them came as I was brought up. 1999 Cancer I remember the day I stood in the corner of room listening to my father speak after he was told he had cancer “Alhamdlilah it’s all with Allah” (thanks be to God) he said. At such a young age I didn’t know how these words would shape my life. As the years passed I saw my father’s fight with Cancer, surgeries, radio therapy and hospital appointments. I watched as my mum took care of my dad, ups and down of cancer taking its toll, yet one thing that never left my father was his faith and values. At times I felt scared and worried nevertheless my mother and father always kept me smiling and happy. 2010- Stroke We were told half my father’s brain had died yet my father lived on but paralyzed from one side. Every day sitting by his side, him writing sweet notes to me and my mother, no matter how he changed he was still with us and we were hopeful. “Oh what type of life is this? Just like a vegetable” Someone once said, this comment affected me deeply, I wanted to scream yet all I could do was keep quiet and cry. The day it all changed 20.06.2010, on a hot summers day I kneeled beside my father’s hospital bed, his eyes were closed, all tubes had be removed. I gave him a kiss on his forehead, held his hand and inside my heart wished I never had to let go but I knew he was no longer in the land of the living. Coming home from the mosque after my father was buried grief hit me like a stormy ocean wave, drowning me, unable to breathe all I could do was cry. My hero was gone. “He’s gone, just accept it” one person said “get a grip, he’s watching you’re making him sad” another told us. At the time of my grief I was unable to eat and lost 9kg in two weeks, I felt I was unable to move forward. Comments people made did not help and I was unable to push them aside, it took me time to understand the needs of my mind and body. Grief comes in many different forms and lack of understanding and labels can cause dire mental health issues. 2017- Accepting an illness Keratocounus is a non-inflammatory eye condition in which the normally dome shape of the eye (the cornea) changes shape, causes vision to decrease and in severe causes causing blindness. The time I was told I had the illness, I remembered my father’s words “Alhamdlilah for everything” I said. You see my mother also suffers from Keratocounus growing up I watch her struggling; when she arrived in England in the 1970’s she became a patient at Moorfield eye Hospital. Due to the lack of early care my mother became partially sighted, unable to see without hard contact lens.

August 2017 I had cross linking surgery on both eyes; this was extremely painful and traumatising. The healing process was lengthy, having to stay in a dark room for four months, unable to see clearly for one year, having to deal with the pain and scaring within my eyes. Accepting I have this illness was a major challenge in my life. The fear of not being able to see overtook my thoughts at times. I felt sadness and slowly accepted that my vision will decrease over the years. Here again I faced labels, labels that people put on me. Comments made in passing, without the thought of how it would affect me.

The Journey of learning

Who am I? Fear or challenge, uncertainty or opportunity, anxious or excitement, Sabr ,Hikmah, Tawkkul and Qadr. Label and words have always affected me, the lack of kindness or understanding in words can affect us all unknowingly.

Addressing this can be a challenge within itself, however in not doing so we only affect our own mental health. I found having an open respectful conversation with Hikmah of speaking we can address and challenge the labels others place on us. I have found positivity in having awareness of myself, placing healthy boundaries and growing as a person. When hearing or thinking something negative I now try stop it dead in its tracks, I counteract it with something positive. The days I feel overwhelmed by my emotions and thoughts, I embrace my emotions rather than suppressing them. It is okay to not be okay and own it. Our ‘imperfections’ make us who we are, and we are all beautiful regardless of words and comments.

  “No one is you and that is your superpower”- Dave Grohl.


In our lives we all have been in the situation where we have no control, death of loved one, illnesses and uncertainties in life. It’s okay to be honest about how you feel, what you’re experiencing and what you need or want.  It is important to understand your own mind and body, not to push yourself and accept the things about yourself you might not like.

Over the years I have found peace in Tawakkul, if you did not get something you want or something did not go your way know that Allah has something better planned for you. Alhumdulilah ala kulli haal (All praises are for Allah in every condition). I found that stories from the Quran helped me accept struggles within my life, understanding Qadr and having Sabr, helped me overcome my sadness of loss and accepting my illness. We go through life not understanding why bad things happen to us but when we change our perspective knowing there is a higher plan in everything that happens to us we come to a self-understanding, a deeper understanding of our own hearts. Today I am thankful to Allah for every hardship he put in my path as there is Hikmah behind every test and I feel I am who I am because of every test I faced.

Though my experience of my father and values I want to live a life of meaning, leaving behind a legacy and helping others with their hardships.

“Verily with hardship comes ease”- Quran 94:6   “Do not lose hope, nor be sad” Quran 3:139

I’ve learnt to overcome my hardship with the right tools, everyone’s tools are different and we each have our own stories. No one’s way of feeling pain is wrong it’s all about how we deal with that pain which defines a person. Self-love is knowing your worth, being kind to yourself, embracing who you are and forgiving yourself for your shortcomings.

                 Who am i?  I am me and I am happy being me.

Do you identify as a Muslim having been through emotional distress which has made you stronger? Would you like to join Sidra and the other brave voices aiming to end this silent stigma and #Emerge Proud for your own community and humanity united?

CONTACT US HERE to find out how to share your story 

CLICK HERE for more information 

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A Day in the life of Julian of Norwich; fortnightly story series, Part 8

One of our regular offerings for the Caravan of Unity bridging events is this story series based on the theme of ‘Awakening’;

A Day in the life of Julian of Norwich; fortnightly story series hosted by ISISIALLTHINGS

Julian of Norwich was a 14th Century mystic and visionary who understood the power of mindfulness and contemplation on our higher nature and sense of gratitude for life itself.  She became fully awakened when she had an NDE (near death experience) at 30 and was shown the totally unconditional love of the Source of all that is. The 16 visions she received sustained her spiritual inner world for over 40 years in self- isolation through many plagues, during which time she was inspired to write a book, “Divine Revelations of Love”.

Part 8 Margery Kempe paved her way to pilgrimage

We begin to see how Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe were truly bringing back the power of the feminine mystic, for healing and nurturing the wound of the patriarchy although they may have been unaware of the momentous work they were doing at the time. They made valiant efforts to return the balance of the sacred feminine and divine masculine by their hard-won choices, decisions that were based upon their direct connection to their God or what we may call Source today.

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Nigel defied death to live his wildest dreams with eye sight loss

Sometimes it can be the very thing that sent us down a path of seeming destruction that sets us back on our path of purpose. Nigel is now #EyeInspiring others due to reclaiming his passions…
Nigel (2)

Hello, my name is Nigel and I’m 55 years old.

8 months after my 50th birthday I was participating in a lifelong passion of mine, motorbike speedway, when I was involved in a freak accident where I suffered major brain damage.

When I finally woke out of my coma it was clear that I had some sight loss and was diagnosed with purchase retinopathy.  It took quite a long time for me to realise the impact of my eyesight loss, several weeks after I came out of my coma in fact because my brain was still swollen at that time. It really hit home when my wife sadly had a mental breakdown, got sectioned and put into a mental institution. I then started realising the impact of my eyesight loss, which had all happened obviously in the blink of an eye.

Until then I’d had my own business for 27 years, I was a successful business person and I had many passions and dreams and it was quite clear to me that my eyesight loss was going to stop all of these in one hammer blow.  So that realisation then sent me in a spiral of mental distress.  I’d realised that I’d lost my wife to the mental institution, and I’d lost my business.

I’d felt as though I’d lost the chance to live my passions again forever, so I then started to feel suicidal, which was never me, but at the time I felt that that was the only way out.  Thankfully I didn’t follow through with it and I’m now here 5 years later.

Ironically my success in life and passions was the Achilles heal that actually sent me on a downhill spiral. Ironically it was also my success, and my passions and my desire for life actually brought me back because I decided that I would like to regain  my passions, albeit in a different manner, and that drove me to chip away, day by day, at everything that I now do. I now also do motivational speaking.

I’ve ridden motorbikes since that decision; I do various challenges on motorbikes and in cars.  I’ve ridden a speedway bike, I’ve ridden a hot-rod, I’ve been away with the wall of death and one of my passions before my accident, my eyesight loss, was photography.

I was a semi professional photographer a number of years ago.  I’ve revisited photography and I had a successful photographic exhibition last year. I was due to have one again this year but the Corona virus stopped that so I’m aiming now for next year and the next exhibition I’m going to have will be based on my time away with the wall of death attraction.

My first exhibition was called ‘Life on Mars’ and included pictures to depict my life since my accident with my vision loss.

July 2020

Follow Nigel on Social Media here;
Instagram: @blindblokeracing
Paperback-book-Stack-Series

Due for publication later this year, our next inspirational pocket book of hope;

Eye Inspire; #Emerging Proud through Eye Sight Loss

LIVE online launch on WORLD SIGHT DAY 8th October 2020; CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP 

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Canadian Cody is KindaProud of his adventurous life, one he never believed would be possible…

As Cody knows only too well, sometimes choosing what seems to be the hardest thing can lead to the best outcomes. We have to learn to love ourselves first and the rest will follow. Cody says; “If it wasn’t for me starting to emerge proud of who I am, these things would have never happened.” What a legend he is!

CodyCphoto (1)

Hello everyone my name is Canadian Cody and I would like to share with you all the victories that I have had as a self-advocating DeafBlind backpacker living and working abroad in New Zealand. I have Retinitis Pigmentosa Usher’s Syndrome Type2.

I am severely hearing impaired, I wear hearing aids, and I am legally blind, but that has no longer stopped me from living a life that two years ago I would not have believed was possible. After going through a very hard time in my life I found myself in a position to leave everything behind and do something that I had never done before, travel solo.

Let me tell you this, choosing to travel was the best decision I ever made in my life. There are things that I have now done that I used to believe I would never be able to do in my lifetime. I am honestly blessed to have what I have otherwise I probably wouldn’t be sitting here writing to you about how rewarding it’s been to find myself and to build up the courage and confidence to show the world that I am proud of who I am.  I hope this story of the way I have been living my life will inspire you to start living yours.

My job, my driver’s license, my girlfriend….I found myself hanging on tightly to these things I had established because I was afraid of loosing them all. I felt that I had to stay forever doing the things I had been doing with the people I had been doing them with because they were the only ones who knew of my vision loss. I felt that I would never be given a chance by people who didn’t already know about me. I continued to hang on to the only life I thought I could ever have, I thought I could only do what I already knew how, but even that was becoming a struggle.  I was no longer a happy person, I was an angry one. I didn’t have the confidence or self-esteem to make a positive change in my life. I never realized that those things I was afraid of loosing were in fact the same things that were holding me back.

I finally had the mental breakdown my life needed after months and months of torturing myself and others with competition, jealousy, dangerous driving, drugs and alcohol, unrealistic expectations, violence, denial, and thoughts of suicide among other things.

I got fired from my job of seven years and then decided to end my relationship with my girlfriend. She never accepted who I was becoming either. She never told her family what kind of person she was really with. We were together for six years. I couldn’t learn to accept and love myself if she was still a part of my life. A huge weight had been lifted off of my shoulders and I was finally free and able to spread my wings. But I still had anger towards the fact that I had pretty much lived in the same houses as my Mother for my whole life up until that point. So I spent the next two months planning my four month solo travel trip to New Zealand.   Part of me leaving was to grow as a person by challenging myself outside of my comfort zone and into the fear of the unknown.

Four, five, six months turned into one year going on two years and I’m still here in this amazing country today. The original four months were great but I was feeling like it wasn’t enough of that challenge I was looking for, so I extended my stay. Doing this meant that I was going to have to start working and saving money. it’s been a challenge to get work because of rejection for being legally blind. Many of the times I’ve had prolonged work experiences here is when I’ve hidden the fact that I was legally blind and managed to remain hidden for the duration of the work.  Despite my challenges I have worked as a fish freezer boat unloader, a chicken farm worker, a potato chip factory worker, a landscaper, a rubbish runner, a vineyard worker, a kiwi fruit thinner, and as a volunteer for an environmental disaster cleanup. It hasn’t been easy. It’s always been hard to do the jobs fast without seeming suspiciously slow.

I couldn’t be upfront and honest with my employers about my disabilities or else I wouldn’t have had those jobs. I’ve been judged for being slow and seeming lazy, I’ve been verbally abused, I’ve actually gotten into heated arguments over my visual impairment, and I’ve even been physically assaulted because of it. On the other hand I’ve had people coming up to me telling me that they were sorry and feeling guilty that they ever judged me before knowing anything about me. I’ve had it where once I was able to advocate myself to the people I worked with, they actually started to help me keep up the pace so that the boss wouldn’t notice me. I had that job for an extra two months because of that. I have been very empowered by my exposure to and success in different jobs that I used to believe I could never do because I am legally blind. I can honestly tell you that one of the main reasons I’ve managed to be here this long is because of how I’ve gone around with my cane and advocated for myself.

One of my goals when starting to travel was to become comfortable using my Identification Cane. Well not only am I comfortable with it now, but I actually look forward to using it. I soon realized, once overcoming the self-consciousness associated with starting to use a cane, that it gave me so much more strength in certain environments. For me those environments have been backpacker hostels, share houses, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and multi-day music festivals, pretty much all places you would have never found me before I started travelling. My cane provides me with a huge sense of security. It makes embarrassing mistakes okay to make. It sparks my self advocacy. Most people have never seen or met someone like me with a cane before.  I never saw myself becoming this person who is raising awareness and education on people who are DeafBlind but that’s exactly who I’ve become, and I absolutely love it!

I’ve advocated myself to the point where people who have gotten to know me really well have actually started advocating on my behalf.

“Hey what does your stick mean?” “This is a partially blind person’s identification cane, people who are partially blind use it to identify themselves as someone who can’t see very well.”

“Sooo you’re blind? But you don’t look blind.”

“But I am, well not completely. I have this cane to indicate that I am a visually impaired person, otherwise people have no idea and just assume that I’m drunk and high.”

“Ya. You look so normal.”

“Ha. Ya. That’s what makes this disability so interesting, the fact that it’s invisible.”

“So you can see me right now?”

“Ya I can see you, but only when I look directly at you. Your face is completely gone as soon as I look past the side of your head.”

“Really?! Hm. Wow.”

“Ya I’m about 70% blind. My vision is like looking through a tunnel, I only see what my central vision scans over, everything else is either black or blurred.”

“Wow that’s crazy. I would have never known. Let me buy you a beer!”

I have been so empowered by all the nice things people have said to me upon sharing my story with them that I am inspired to keep growing as an advocate and maybe more some day. Here are some of the more common things people have told me.

“You’re an inspiration!”  “Meeting you has changed my perspective on life”

“You’re a legend!”  “You should write a book or become a motivational speaker.”

“I’m so happy to have met you, keep doing what you’re doing and living life full”

“You give the best hugs”

I have lived in houses full of people from all over the world who I became really good friends with. I have hitchhiked quite extensively discovering the true kindness and hospitable nature of Kiwis. I have gone on road trips with new friends and have even driven in some cases. I have had girlfriends from France, Israel, Brazil, Denmark, Germany, Canada and America.  I have been guided and helped around nightclubs and festivals by people who have just met me. I have solo tramped an epic and rugged 91 kilometre, eight day track through one of New Zealand’s stunning national parks. I have had life altering spiritual awakenings leading to the discovery and love of myself with the universe. I am telling you these things because it if it wasn’t for me starting to emerge proud of who I am, these things would have never happened.

I could go on and on about how great it’s been to accept who I am and do what I’ve had to do to live this life but the article is already getting too long so I’m going to leave you now with the key points of inspiration from my story.

Love yourself before trying to love someone else. You’re good for more than one person or one company. Question your happiness. Make a positive change in your life. Be adaptable, Get out of your comfort zone. Believe in yourself. Challenge the fear of the unknown. Show people that you’re not afraid. Be an advocate. Connect with humans. Explore nature. Discover your spiritual side. Strengthen your resilience. Exude perseverance.  Express gratitude for what you have. Don’t compare yourself to others. Emerge proud and you’ll wonder why you ever waited.

My experience in New Zealand has inspired me to dream of one day creating a world where the living abroad lifestyle is more accessible to people with disabilities.

I also dream of meeting more people like you and me to travel and have a good party with some day. Kindness, love, and light everyone xoxo 🙂

Due for publication later this year, our next inspirational pocket book of hope;

Eye Inspire; #Emerging Proud through Eye Sight Loss

LIVE online launch on WORLD SIGHT DAY 8th October 2020; CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP 

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A Day in the life of Julian of Norwich; fortnightly story series, Part 7

One of our regular offerings for the Caravan of Unity bridging events is this story series based on the theme of ‘Awakening’;

A Day in the life of Julian of Norwich; fortnightly story series hosted by ISISIALLTHINGS

Julian of Norwich was a 14th Century mystic and visionary who understood the power of mindfulness and contemplation on our higher nature and sense of gratitude for life itself.  She became fully awakened when she had an NDE (near death experience) at 30 and was shown the totally unconditional love of the Source of all that is. The 16 visions she received sustained her spiritual inner world for over 40 years in self- isolation through many plagues, during which time she was inspired to write a book, “Divine Revelations of Love”.

Part 7 “Julian & Margery Discuss Life” from A Day in the Life of Julian of Norwich.

Margery Kempe asks Julian of Norwich some very interesting questions about life, pain and suffering, after their lunch of pease pottage. These are things Lady Julian has been pondering on for the last 40 years in her cell as an anchorite and she feels well qualified to give her opinion on them.

 

Follow the blog to keep updated on this story series, Part 8 will be shared on 18th August. 

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Christopher never says never to seeing new possibilities on his horizon

Life can be all about perception and what we choose to focus on. After a loss, we can choose to focus only on that loss moving forwards or, like Christopher, learn to use our story for our purpose and set new goals to accomplish. Christopher knows that this can make life not only meaningful, but even fun!

My name is Christopher Warner and I live in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I was born with a condition called hydrocephalus, or water on the brain. To relieve the pressure from the fluid build up around my brain, a shunt consisting of two catheters and a small back-flow reservoir valve was installed in my body when I was three-months old. The shunt drains fluid from the ventricles of my brain to another part of my body where it can be better absorbed.

Despite having to go in for annual revisions to the shunt as I grew, I had a pretty normal childhood. I went to regular public schools, got good grades, and participated in everything my classmates did, with the exception of some physical education classes. There was always a risk of damage to the shunt, so any activity where the teachers believed I might get hurt, I had to either sit out or wear a hockey helmet, and I was never allowed to play any contact sports.

The shunt revisions stopped at age 10 because the surgeon told me he put in some extra catheter for me to “grow into” as he put it. His plan worked really well for the next 21 years.

Fast forward to 2005. I was living in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, had been married for nine years, and had a great job working in my chosen career at a television station. One day in October of that year, I wasn’t feeling well and needed to be taken to hospital. I had emergency surgery to replace my shunt because it had failed. In fact, there were two surgeries within a 24-hour period because the first one didn’t work.

When I woke up from that second surgery, all I could see was light and shadow.

Upon investigation, it was discovered I had experienced a stroke sometime between the two surgeries. The part of my brain that processes eyesight had been starved for blood due to the pressure put on it by the fluid around my brain.  My eyes were fine, but my brain was not processing the signals from my eyes. The neurosurgeon told me I would likely recover some of my sight, but he couldn’t tell me how much. He said to give it a year and see what happened.

Seven months later, on a return visit to the neurosurgeon, he said I had likely recovered as much as I was going to, a sentiment that was echoed by the neuro-ophthalmologist at the hospital. By that point, I had recovered some sight, but was still considered legally blind.

In the two to three years that followed the stroke, I went through all five stages of grief, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance while I grieved the person I had been before my sight loss. Family and friends, along with the doctors and staff from CNIB, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, were very helpful in my recovery. I was provided with helpful tools and assistance in regaining my abilities and self confidence.

In the time after the stroke, while I was recovering at home, my wife suggested I keep a journal of my experiences, thoughts, and feelings while I recovered. Some friends and family members said they would like to read the journal some day, which inspired me to write my first book, a memoir called ‘Life’s not Over, It Just Looks Different.’

I self-published the book, meaning I was in charge of everything from hiring someone to edit it, to marketing and promoting it. Since its release in 2016, the book has sold in five countries, including Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. The book was released in print and e-book, which is my preferred way to read now, because my smart phone reads the book to me.

I thought the memoir would be my one and only book release, but I really liked the process of writing, editing, and everything involved in the marketing and promoting of it, so I decided that if another book idea came along, I would love to do it again.

In 2018, I was doing a presentation on behalf of CNIB for a class of Grade one students, and during the presentation I was asked about guide dogs. Another child raised her hand and asked why there aren’t any guide cats, and we had some fun talking about the behaviour of cats and why they would not make a good guide.

Back at the CNIB office, I was talking to a colleague about the presentation and the conversation about guide cats. He thought it was funny and asked if I had ever thought of writing a children’s book. That gave me an idea, and I set to work thinking of other animals a person would have misadventures with if they were used as guides.

With the help of a friend who is a very talented artist, we created Tommy Wants a Guide Dog, the story of a young boy with sight loss and a big imagination. Since its release in April, 2020, it has sold in three countries.

Prior to losing my sight, I had adopted the philosophy that I am on this planet for fun, and although my sight loss definitely tested that thinking, it did not break me. Over the past 15 years I have travelled more places, met amazing people, and accomplished things I had never imagined when I was fully sighted.

These days, I’m still doing presentations on behalf of CNIB, as well as speaking about my books. There are many ideas on the go in my computer, so I don’t know what my next book will be about or when it will be released, but I’ve learned to never say never and just keep having fun.

 

Follow Christopher on Instagram @lifesnotover_ca and @nakokitabooks

His book websites are www.lifesnotover.ca and www.nakokitabooks.com

Due for publication later this year, our next inspirational pocket book of hope;

Eye Inspire; #Emerging Proud through Eye Sight Loss

LIVE online launch on WORLD SIGHT DAY 8th October 2020; CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP 

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Alice is Kinda Proud that she has been able to succeed as a V.I.P. (Visually Impaired Person)

Alice now encourages others with a sight impairment to utilise the things that helped her succeed in realising her dreams; not being afraid to ask for support, finding a community which can act as your rock, and practicing positive self- talk. Now Alice sings her own song…

My name is Alice Cadman and I have a rare eye condition called Stargardt’s Disease. I am a professional singer and run a primary school music organisation, Sing Education.

I grew up with completely ‘normal’ vision, although when I look back, there were hints at some strange things going on with my vision right back to always wanting the light on as a child, even on a bright summer’s day. I attended regular eye tests, I was an avid reader, could sight-read music fluently as a singer, oboist and pianist and I learnt to drive. It wasn’t until I was aged twenty-two and beginning my first year of a music degree at a conservatoire that I started to notice changes in my vision. My friends had to jump around so that I could find them. I became a nervous driver – lanes suddenly seemed to disappear, and I once only noticed a parked lorry just in time.

I went for an optician’s appointment, expecting to come out with a lovely pair of glasses. But the optician spotted something strange and gave me a referral. Fast forward a few months and I received a letter for an appointment at a genetic clinic. I was confused – no one in my family has a major problem with their eyes, I thought – ‘it must be a mistake!’

At the appointment, they did some tests and diagnosed me with macular dystrophy. My memory of this appointment is vague – I wasn’t prepared for it, I wasn’t expecting them to tell me that something was seriously wrong with my sight. Had I caused it somehow? Aside from giving up driving straight away, I carried on living as I had before, with little knowledge of the condition and not yet ready to seek help. It was only as I started to tell friends and family about it and as I began to discuss my needs at university, that I realised this might have quite an impact on my life.

I was soon introduced to a university tutor who supported students with extra learning needs. We got on well and as it happened, she had a very similar eye condition. I know that meeting this tutor so early on in my sight loss journey had a hugely positive impact on the years that followed and on how Stargardt’s impacted my life. Meeting her meant that I was prepared for what was to come. My new friend and tutor warned me that doctors might suggest I needed time out of university, or that I might be told I should not expect to work. She showed me that somebody could thrive in the working world, despite vision loss. She taught me that life with sight loss was likely to be a challenge, that it wasn’t going to be an easy ride, that the world can be very unfair for people living with disabilities. But alongside that, she taught me that if you’re willing to work hard and to advocate for yourself and others, you could show the world that sight loss is not a barrier.

Eventually, aged twenty-four, I was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease and was registered as ‘sight impaired’. Stargardt’s is a juvenile, inherited condition, meaning that it usually comes out in childhood or early adulthood and is passed on genetically. No one in my family had Stargardt’s – or had ever heard of it! Stargardt’s affects your central vision, which is ‘where you look’, but it also deals with fine detail, straight lines and colour. When I was first diagnosed, I had a small missing patch of vision in my left eye. I remember constantly closing one eye and then the other. What would I do when it showed up in both eyes? I wouldn’t be able to cope then, surely? I shared this worry with another tutor at my music college, who, with family experience of sight loss, encouraged me not to live in fear, thinking every day – “will it be worse tomorrow?”

University was simultaneously a wonderful and challenging place to deal with the onset of sight loss. On one hand, I had amazing friends and tutors around me who supported and encouraged me. On the other hand, I had some difficult conversations with people who did not understand what was happening to me. I struggled to get some essential support I needed having not yet learnt the skills to fight for accessibility. I very quickly realised that if I was going to do well in my degree, I was going to have to work extra hard. I was going to have to exercise my right to complain when I wasn’t given support and was going to have to learn to be organised!

I led a full student life; studying, teaching singing, piano and classroom music and working as a waiter at parties and bars. Towards the end of my degree, I founded Sing Education, with my (now) husband, and a friend. By the time I graduated, my vision had deteriorated quite a bit, leaving me with a large blank patch in the middle of both eyes and flashing white and green lights over the top.

My Christian faith sustained me through this time and continues to be my rock. I had a loving church community around me who built me up, alongside the support of my husband, close friends and family. I believed that God would use my visual impairment to help others. This seemed like an unlikely dream at the time, however, I eventually reached a stage where Stargardt’s was no longer a negative thing in my life. Being visually impaired was something I had come to like about myself. I found that opportunities related to sight loss started coming my way: I received some funding grants and met many wonderful people. I now teach singing to a young girl who is blind; I’ve been involved in a project with The Amber Trust to empower other music teachers to teach children who are blind or partially sighted; I’ve sung in The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace at an art event for visually impaired people; I’ve led sight loss awareness school assemblies; and I run an Instagram account, @life_as_a_vip, to raise awareness of visual impairment.

I find that life as a visually impaired person (a “VIP”) is a balancing act between proving that I can overcome the challenges of sight loss and be positive and successful, while also showing people that there are an array of daily challenges, mainly because society is simply not set up for people with disabilities. I believe with education and awareness, the world can become a more welcoming place for those with sight loss.

I encourage you to speak positively over yourselves – there is power in words. I encourage you to learn to describe your needs with confidence. I know this can be hard, but it is so worthwhile and will last you a lifetime. I encourage you to find a community where you can listen to and learn from one another. I encourage you to embrace technology – it is going to be your best friend. I encourage you to accept support and to grasp good opportunities when they come your way.

Find out more about Alice and her projects on social media;

Instagram handle @life_as_a_vip

Website: www.lifeasavip.com

Business website: www.singeducation.co.uk (being updated)

Singing website: www.alicecadman.co.uk

Due for publication later this year, our next inspirational pocket book of hope;

Eye Inspire; #Emerging Proud through Eye Sight Loss

LIVE online launch on WORLD SIGHT DAY 8th October 2020; CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP 

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