With visual impairment being a low incidence disability in children and young people, often young people who are visually impaired find themselves struggling in various aspects of their lives. That could be with making friends, getting support at school, getting out and about or self-confidence. Look UK’s mentoring project aims to address this problem by pairing together a young and older blind or partially sighted person based on experience, character and interests.
Through this partnership, the young person is mentored and can discuss any concerns and get advice on various matters. The project also runs employment workshops for young people and workshops in schools for their peers to learn about visual impairment. Look UK was set up by parents of a visually impaired child as they felt that there was no support for parents. Over the years, Look UK has repurposed itself to work with young people as well as their parents.
With their latest funding from The Vision Fund, Look UK plans to help a community of 30 mentors (adults with sight loss who may or may not be in employment), and 40 mentees (younger peers living with sight loss) living in London through a structured mentoring and support programme that will be delivered online through a secure mentoring platform and face to face (covid depending) at local youth forums, meet-ups, facilitated chat groups, schools workshops and residential events.
Moving to secondary school was hard for Chloe. She felt misunderstood by her peers and was often left out in the playground. She struggled to understand what was being said by her teachers and couldn’t easily articulate how hard she found the lessons. Chloe’s mum, Jane, became concerned:
“Chloe didn’t talk about it openly, but I heard from a friend that she was crying in the toilets at break and lunch…She felt sick of herself, and I was desperately worried.”
Jane reached out to the Vision Foundation’s delivery partner, Look UK. Chloe joined a Vision Foundation funded mentoring programme, which links visually impaired children with young adult mentors for advice and support. Chloe was paired with Andrea, who is also deafblind and understood exactly what Chloe was going through. They chatted every week.
Over time, Andrea was able to build up Chloe’s confidence, encouraging her to let people know what she needed, and how to ask for support. Chloe found her voice again. She’s joined a local youth club and is making new friends.
“Andrea seemed to unlock something in Chloe, and she started to talk. It was a light bulb moment.…[We] are so grateful to Andrea…. for helping our daughter hold her head up high again.” Jane, Chloe’s Mum.
The Vision Fund offers grants for projects supporting blind and partially sighted people. Our latest round is now open to applications! Find out more here.