2 years ago, Laura Evans was an unstoppable woman, she had a great job as a swim teacher which was something she loved, 7 wonderful children she was bringing up even with one child suffering from ADHD and sight loss and another with autism and ADHD. Always independent and never relying on others she was getting on with the day to day duties any mother with young children would have, including being one of the providers for the family. Laura had, for a long time, hoped that one day she would run her own swim school for children, teens and adults with additional needs and physical disabilities, she felt that through her own experience there was not enough dedicated swim schools that would or could offer this service so there would no longer be barriers for anyone wanting to learn to swim.
Then 2 years ago things took a turn for Laura, she was diagnosed with vitelliform macular degeneration or best disease as its more commonly known.
As her vision deteriorated, life got a lot harder. She started to rely on others more and more, her hours as a swim teacher were being cut as she needed a qualified spotter in the pool. The biggest shock came in August last year when she lost her license. Any one with children can appreciate that a license is almost a necessity with school runs and other errands.
Laura hit her lowest point ever, she retreated into a shell and when she would normally fight for her rights, she found sight loss was taking her confidence slowly. She was so unsure on what the future would bring and how she would provide for her family. Feeling written off and unsure where to turn, Laura felt overwhelmed and really no use to anyone, and of course her dream of starting her own business seemed to be left in tatters.
Her local ECLO told her of a new Employment Project that Support 4 Sight was hosting which included a 6-week Pre-Employment Programme, with the aim of getting people with vision impairment back into employment. Although sceptical with horror stories from other projects, Laura agreed to go along with an open mind. She felt lost without a job as working is important to her, she enjoyed working and missed her job, and also was desperate to find a way to provide for her family.
She arrived at the first session, feeling lost and wondering how she was going to pull through. Employment Manager, Zsuzsanna Hybel was there to work with her from the first session. Arming her with knowledge, information and guidance as to her rights, Laura was learning more and more each week. Including that starting her own business was actually an option she thought wasn’t within her capabilities.
Each week Laura felt stronger she felt her confidence coming back and for the first time she realised that her sight loss was not the end of her story, that there is a life after sight loss. She couldn’t believe how much the course had changed her perception and with each week gaining more and more knowledge and confidence, she was shaking off the feeling of uselessness.
Laura decided that enough was enough, and with her new founded knowledge and many nights of research she decided to open her own swim school and provide swimming lessons to those with disabilities at her local pool. Her proudest moment of the whole course was going in and telling everyone “I have gone for it, I have put a proposal into the pool” the group erupted in praise and couldn’t believe this was the same Laura from 6 weeks ago that came in crying for an hour unsure how she was going to cope.
Laura cannot stress to anyone enough how the course has changed her, she would tell anyone who was interested in the course to go and go in with an open mind. You do not know what your possibilities are and what you could possibly be.
Now Laura is stronger than she ever thought she was, having gone through the sight loss journey she is now armoured with knowledge and a better understanding of herself. She is really now, unstoppable.
Sight loss can be so daunting particularly if like Laura you are young and have a family to provide for it feels like nothing will be the same. The employment project is an invaluable tool to getting you on the road again
“I could not have done this without Zsuzsi, her knowledge and empathy as well as her enthusiasm and dedication to her job and all involved with the project is nothing like I’ve ever come across before!! She has helped me and even reached out to help my son who has the same condition. I’d be lost without her; it hasn’t stopped at the end of the 6 weeks either I know she is only on the other end of the phone. I can’t wait till the grand open of diversity swim school Zsuzsi will be one of the first to get an invite! Thank you” Laura Evans