Change 100

I’ve been keeping this under my hat for a while now, but some exciting things are soon ahead for Jazzy and I and I’m excited to share them here.

AS you might know, I graduated from University with a 1st in English Literature in 2016. Since then I stayed in the city I studied in, hoping to find work. I would like to work in Communications, doing things like writing press releases, managing social media platforms etc. I’ve had some experience working in the Corporate Communications team of my University while I was studying, but unfortunately haven’t been able to find work in the sector since graduating.

The process of looking and applying for work as someone with a disability is a topic I’ll expand on in another post, but for now I’ll share the fantastic news that I’ve finally gotten an internship for the summer which will hopefully go a long way to helping me into full time employment.

I’ve gained this internship through the Change 100 Programme, a scheme run by Leonard Cheshire Disability aiming to help disabled students and graduates into work by offering internship opportunities and mentorship. It’s a relatively new programme that is gaining success every year, this year partnering with organisations to offer 140 internships to disabled students and graduates around the country. Find out more information about the Change 100 Programme via this link:

https://www.leonardcheshire.org/support-and-information/life-and-work/skills-development/employment-programmes/change100

Undertaking the internship means relocating for Jazzy and I as we’ll be working in London. We’ll be living just outside the capital and commuting in every day, working five days a week for three months. Inevitably it’ll be a big change for both of us and though it sounds a little daunting I’m excited and confident we’ll both take it in our stride.

We’ve already taken steps to ensuring a smooth transition, having mobility and orientation in London and escalator training for Jazzy. It’s important to take my guide dog into account whenever big changes like this are on the horizon. Thankfully Jazzy is an adaptable and confident dog; she is very quick to learn new routes and enjoys doing it so I don’t foresee any problems where she is concerned.

I’ve also had my first experience of applying to Access To Work; a government funded scheme intended to level the playing field for disabled people in work by providing accessibility equipment and support for a disabled person so that they need not depend on their employer for those adaptions. Access to Work has a somewhat mixed reputation and from my experience with them so far, I’m not sure that reputation is unfounded, though my dealings with them are currently ongoing so I’ll update on my experience with them in a later post.

For now, I think that’s as much as I can say at this point. I start my internship in a couple of weeks so I’ll be sure to keep my readers updated with our progress adapting to working in the big city. Until then, wish me luck!

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Blind fire walk for Guide Dogs!

I completed a sponsored fire walk for Guide Dogs… Twice!

 

When my mum and sister describe the size of the flames to me as we arrived at the Guide Dogs Liverpool training centre yesterday morning, they both had some trepidation in their voices. It still didn’t feel very real to me though. I could vaguely smell the fire but I couldn’t hear it or feel the heat so it still felt distant.

 

Whenever anyone had asked me if I felt nervous about the fire walk during this past week I had answered no, because honestly I wasn’t. I was more focused on fundraising than what I would be actually doing at the end of it. Admittedly, all of my fundraising was done online. But I was determined to reach my target and probably annoyed all of my Facebook Friends to death with my repeated posts about my crazy stunt.

 

It wasn’t until I was sat in the middle of the health and safety briefing that it really started to hit home what I was about to do. The fire was blazing outside and the instructor told us that the optimum heat for firewalking is 400°C. He explained that we would in fact be walking over the hot embers of the fire and that as long as we walked normally and at a good pace, it would be extremely safe. Still, this is when it finally started to feel real to me and I suddenly became very, very nervous.

 

There was a group of around 15 fire walkers in all, only myself and another lady were visually impaired so we waited at the back of the line to be guided safely by the instructors over the walkway. I was glad for this. The instructor counted the paces of the person firewalking, which usually was between three and six steps, so I could gauge the distance of the walkway and how long it took to walk across it.

 

When it finally got to my turn, I was really scared. I stood on the edge of the fire walk, an instructor either side of me holding my hands, and really really wanted to run away. For a second I was really afraid that I would disappoint myself and everyone else by chickening out.

 

I was scared because I was stepping into the unknown. Yes, people had described it to me, I’d heard others do it before me and I had a rough idea of what I was in for. But I’ve never done anything like this before; I had nothing to compare it to so I couldn’t really imagine it. I couldn’t see what was in front of me and I couldn’t picture it in my head. But that’s also what made me do it.

 

The instructor had told us that if we were nervous, to think of the reasons why we were doing the fire walk. So I thought of myself two years ago; how back then I was so afraid of the unknown that I barely left my room. I thought about what a difference having a guide dog has made to my quality of life, my confidence and my independence. I thought about how, with Jazzy with me, I never feel like I’m stepping into the unknown because I don’t feel vulnerable. So that’s why I walked.

 

it was one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever done!

 

Strangely it wasn’t that hot. To be fair, it was over so quickly to begin with I barely registered what I’d done until I was safely on the other side with my feet in buckets of cold water. And once I did realise what I’d just done, I got right back in line to do it again!

 

It basically felt like walking over warm soil, until you got right to the end when it started to feel a bit more… burny. I’d expected to be able to feel the heat and smell the burning wood, but honestly I was so focused on walking in a straight line and not dying a fiery death I didn’t stop to smell the embers.

 

I want to say an absolutely gargantuan thank you to everyone who sponsored me to do this ridiculous thing. I set out with a target of £100. I cleared that within 24 hours of setting up my JustGiving page! So I set myself a new target of £500.

 

Having not planned any kind of fundraising events and hoping to rely entirely on the kindness of the people of the Internet, I hoped I could achieve something big and make a notable contribution to the charity that is so close to my heart.

 

After much tweeting, and somewhat desperate Facebook statuses, I did the fire walk having raised a total of £630 on my JustGiving page. This is absolutely phenomenal and I can’t explain how humbled and grateful I am to everyone who read my story and thought it would be worthy enough to warrant their hard earned cash. I promise you, your money is going to a very worthy cause.

 

You can watch me do the first fire walk here

and you can watch me going back a second time, this time being guided by my mum, here.

 

Click here to be taken to my JustGiving page.

 

As ever, thank you for reading 🙂

Walking through fire for guide dogs!

Hello readers, today I come to you asking for your help.

 

On Saturday, 21 May I will be completing a sponsored walk to raise money for guide dogs. Being only about 5m long, you may think that this sponsored walk is a bit of a cop out… But there is a twist! I will in fact be walking through fire!

 

The sponsored walk will take place at the guide dogs Liverpool fun day, held at their centre on Youens way, Knotty Ash, Liverpool, L14 2EB.

 

Fire walking refers to the activity of walking over hot embers of up to 1200F without burning the soles of your feet. I will attend a health and safety seminar before embarking on this challenge.

 

I’ve decided to complete the sponsored fire walk not only to raise money for this charity that is very close to my heart, and the fact that I am a bit of an adrenaline junkie, but also because it strikes me as an appropriate way to mark how Jazzy has changed my life.

 

Two years ago, when I decided to apply for a guide dog, I was not in a good place. I was isolated and felt very restricted by my visual impairment. Getting around independently was only an option if I use my white cane, which was a source of great anxiety and was to be avoided if at all possible. This meant that I rarely went anywhere on my own and was completely reliant on other people to get out and about. When I think back to how I felt two years ago, I can hardly believe how far I’ve come. Now I often feel like I have to pinch myself, because two years ago I honestly would have regarded a five minute walk to the shops on my own as daunting of a prospect as walking through fire.

 

The freedom, confidence and independence Jazzy gives me is indescribable. It may seem like nothing to anybody else, but just the fact that I was able to pop into the city centre the other day to pick up a few things from the shops without a second thought is such a massive difference from two years ago, and I have guide dogs to thank for that.

 

It might sound melodramatic to some, but I struggled to describe the fear and anxiety I felt just thinking about getting around on my own. Looking back, I think it was a combination of low self esteem and lack of confidence that restricted me to depending on others all the time. Something that in itself becomes a source of guilt, because nobody wants to feel like a burden. So eventually it meant that I often wouldn’t get out, for fear of doing it on my own and fear of being a burden on others if relying on a sighted guide.

 

It was meeting Lynette Who now works as an engagement Officer at guide dogs Liverpool, and her guide dog Pippa that initially convinced me to apply for a guide dog back in May 2014.

 

Meeting them and seeing how their partnership worked up close made me realise how much I long for that kind of freedom. After my mobility assessment and initial discussions with a guide dogs mobility instructor, I was put on the waiting list. This is what motivated me to get myself back on track; to let people know how I was feeling and how I was struggling, and to make more of an effort with my mobility lessons so that I would achieve the necessary confidence using the white cane which is required before training with a guide dog.

 

I was matched with Jazzy in November, we trained after Christmas and were qualified by the end of January. Since then we have had highs, lows, laughter and tears which has all lead to a phenomenal partnership that I can’t express how grateful I am for.

 

This is why I want to give something back to Guide Dogs, because in giving me Jazzy they change my life for the better. This is why am asking for your help, please sponsor me so that guide dogs can continue their life changing work.

 

I’m hoping to make a small contribution to Guide Dogs by raising £100. You can sponsor me and support guide dogs by visiting my Justgiving page here.
As ever, thank you for reading , keep your eyes peeled for my updates regarding the sponsored fire walk and wish me luck!