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Beating the system

19 Nov

Beating the system

By Shannique Smith

With the society we are living in today we all feel out of place at times but imagine if you had a disability? Life is hard already, let alone to have something wrong with you which the whole world can see. Three females who were interviewed who have a visual impairment are trying to beat the system by making a difference to what is expected from a visually impaired person. There needs to be a change which can happen, but this will take time.

Future Exchange is the place to be if you are visually impaired and would like to know more about the various services that are available to you. Courtney and Joy who were interviewed will be there on the day. This will be taking place on 30th November starting at 12pm and finishing at 6pm. On the day there will be a live band, workshops, ways to get into employment and lots more.  Come along let your voice be heard.

What is your name? Natasha Tiwari

How old are you? “I am thirty years old.”

How did you go blind? “I had laser eye surgery in a NHS hospital they did too much and annihilated my retinas.” 

What was the hardest part for you when you lost your sight? “Losing my independence and losing my career.”

What was your career like before you went blind? “I was a model and I was a singer, I signed up to modelling agencies and I was with Sony record label.”

Do you think the world understand you, with your VI? “No, especially London. I find other countries more accepting and I find more countries more willing to help than in London even though I was born over here. 

How has your ambition changed since your sight lost? “Well from being in the entertainment industry, I had to think of something that I was really, really good at and they don’t offer a lot of jobs over here for blind people, the majority of the jobs when I went to the RNIB was battery Packing in factory or voluntary jobs which I thought no, I have got more than enough education to do that. I decided to go for a career in law. I went back to college and I did Access to law, where I studied law politics and social anthropology. I passed with a distinction and then I had four offers from Universities and I am currently studying at BPP University.”      

How do you stay strong? “I stay strong in my faith in God, I’m not a specific  religion because I do believe that religion is like a market everybody try to claim that they are the  best religion so I just keep myself to myself and um music, I still do my music.”   

If you could get your sight back would you want to? “Of course definitely because I was not born this way and it wasn’t self-inflicted by myself it was done by somebody else’s negligence.”   

What would be your advice to people in the same situation as yourself? “Anything you do in life always try and get a second and a third opinion and try and as much research about the situation for yourself and do not rely on other people, friends or family or professionals. They are so much information at Libraries, the internet, so I would recommend anybody when it comes to yourself, to do as much research instead of going for a first opinion, no matter how drastic it is and how the person or any profession says xyz will happen because the only person that suffers and has to deal with it at the end of the day is yourself.”  

Courtney Nugent. Age 24

Courtney is totally blind. She had a brain tumour at the age of three and this is the cause of her blindness.

Do you think it’s important for VIP to be around other VIP and if so why? “I think it’s important for VI to be around other VI but just to get the experience to shares experiences and things like that although I don’t think it’s necessary. I think for myself, I did not go to any special school I went to mainstream school, I was always around sighted people anyway but RLSB and the clubs I go to and stuff, we are all visually impaired so yeah I do think it’s a good idea.”

How has the Youth Forum helped you? “The youth forum helped me because we get to share experiences like things what happen to us with transport, education wise, just like, general living.”

Why have you decided to put on an event? “Um, just to help other VIP out there to know what’s available and to share experiences again to talk about any concerns that they have maybe get more VI uses the services that is available to them.”

What would you like to see more of in the VI world? “More jobs for VI.” Are you working? “No, I’m graduating on Friday. I studied criminology.” Have you ever worked? “Um, no I’ve never worked; I’ve done work experiences but not proper work where you just get paid for it. I want to go into the criminal justice, in the courts or something.”

What would be your advice to young people with a visual impairment? “I would say just go for it, obviously there are barriers but I believe you can get over anything. I would not say let your VI be the end of everything, I do believe there is something out there for everyone no matter whether you’re VI or not just go with your goals.” Were you ever told you could not do it because of your visual impairment? “Yeah, I was told I couldn’t go to University because I was visually impaired and you know I’ve done that.”

Do you think there needs to be more events like Future Exchange? “I do because it does open not only the VI world but everyone else’s eyes as well, it does shows there are people out here who are capable of certain things.”

What are you most excited about with Future Exchange? “Well, I’m doing the employment session, it should be quite interesting and I think because of all the organization that has gone into it like the live band.”

Joy Addo,19 years old. Who had a health condition which led her to go blind in her right eye and little vision remaining in her left eye.    

Do you think it’s important for VI people to be around other VI people and if so why? “I do think it’s important and the reason why is because you can get a lot of support and also you can share experiences so you don’t feel so alone.” Have you had any good experience from being around VI people? “Yeah, when I first started losing my vision I was fourteen, I went to a mainstream school, no one else there had any visual impairment. It wasn’t until I started working at the age of 18 where I started getting more visual impaired friends and now the majority of my friends are VI. I do think it’s important to mix your friends. I do think it’s nice to have VI friends because they understand you a bit more, you can go through things together.”

How have the Youth Forum helped you? “It’s been good because it’s given us the opportunity; it allows us to voice our opinion on certain issues. A lot of other people go through what we go through. The main thing I like about the Forum is that we are planning changes. VI have a lot of issues, in order to change it, what do we do about it. That’s where the forum comes in. we are really trying to change. At the moment we are writing a manifesto and we are doing a transport report to TFL.”

Why have you decided to put on an event? “It’s to bring people together and also help with the change we want to make. There has not really been another event where young impaired people can get together and discuss the issues we face.”

What would you like to see more of in the VI world?  “I would like to see more VI people in employment, mainstream employment, not just working somewhere you think you should work. I would love to see VI people breaking the boundaries and getting jobs in places you would not expect us to because there is a lot we can do but we do not have a lot of confidence and ability.”  Are you working? “Yeah, I work in a restaurant, it’s basically a restaurant where you eat in the pitch black and the waiter or the waitress are visually impaired or blind.”

What would be your advice to other young people with a VI impairment? “My advice would be just believe in yourself and don’t take no for an answer and also believe in your abilities really.” Did you ever face anyone telling you, you can’t do something because of your needs? Yeah, when I started college, I wanted to do a cooking course and they said yes at first and they were just like I don’t think you can do this because of health and safety. At that time, I just accepted it but if I were to go back I would say, look listen don’t tell me I cannot do something like cooking, I live by myself just change your curriculum  a bit to suite my needs.”

Do you think there needs to be more events like Future Exchange? “I would like to see more fun events for young visually impaired people to go to. A more social kind of thing, one that’s trying to solve our issues.”

What are you most excited about with Future Exchange? “I’m most excited about all the different people who are coming, what they and also what they think. I think it’s really important to hear people different opinions.”

Writer’s overview

Being visually impaired I know first-hand what people can be like towards blind people. I have congenital glaucoma. I am blind in my right eye and have 6/24 vision remaining in my left. Now that I am 20, I would certainly say that reality is finally starting to sink in. the reason why I say this is when you are younger you don’t realize how hard things can be, everything is done for you in your childhood years whereas when you’re older you have to do things yourself. The way I move forward in my life is telling myself “self-pity stops success”.   



The EDL have come to Hackney

13 Sep

For those of you who don’t know, Tommy Robinson – leader of the far right, fascist group the English Defence League (EDL), was seen plodding about the streets of our borough today on a supposed ‘charity walk’.  To give you all some background, Tommy Robinson ‘campaigns’ for an England free of immigrants and multi-multiculturalism, so for him to show his face in one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse, and accepting boroughs in the country is clearly an act of provocation. As young people in Hackney, we need to send a clear message to the EDL that they’re not wanted in our borough. Their mission is to provoke negative reaction, but as citizens of Hackney, we will show them that we can rise above them. We are a borough who hosted the biggest INTERNATIONAL sporting event in the world. The EDL and Tommy Robinson have no place on our streets and would not use Hackney as a platform to incite their vile messages of hatred.

Meeting Hackney’s Youth Parliament

5 Sep

Last week, I was invited to drop in on a session of Hackney’s Youth Parliament. It was very exciting to hear of all the amazing ideas and campaigns planned. I have been invited to observe a scrutiny meeting next week so you guys will be hearing about that! Make sure to keep checking in for updates on all things parliament!

Tips on starting A Levels

5 Sep

Many of you will be starting Year 12 this week and I understand that this may be a somewhat intimidating transition, but it doesn’t have to be.

Use these helpful hints to help ease yourself into A Levels from GCSE.

Be organised! – Having yourself organised is key! Make sure you have folders and stationary ready before you start. This will make it easier to collect all the information that will be bombarded at you in the first few weeks. It is important you keep your work neat as your notes should be your first port of call when you start revising.

Manage your workload! – Teachers are not lying when they say the jump from GCSE to A Level is huge. Don’t underestimate it! However, with the right level of organisation and a good work schedule, the work wouldn’t seem as intimidating.

Don’t leave things to the last minute! – Always complete work when it is given to you, and be sure to meet your deadlines! Completing homework the day you receive it is more effective as the information you picked up in that days lesson will still be fresh in your mind. You’ll find it’s nice when it’s all out of the way as well! 

When in doubt, ask! – Never be afraid to ask if you’re ever in doubt. Teachers are there to help you. Don’t feel like you’re burdening them or your peers. It’s your future in the balance.

Try your best to build a good relationship with all your teachers. Set a good first impression these first few days. You’d enjoy your lessons much more when you’re with a teacher you get on with.

I’d say the most important (and cliche) point is to have fun along the way! Work and assignments seem a lot less daunting when it’s on a subject you enjoy, so it’s important that you’ve chosen subjects you enjoy. You wouldn’t want to be stuck in classes you hate for two years. Remember, A Levels are a big commitment. The road is always smoother when you’re having fun!

Forum Foods – a Hackney feast

4 Sep

Wednesday 28th August saw Forest Road Youth Hub transformed into a food fest!

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We called up Ife, Youth Forum member who planned the event.

Why food?

” one of the things i’ve always loved about Hackney is the diversity and cultures. One thing that really shows off different cultures is food! We felt everyone could benefit from it but we wanted to focus it at young people because they were on holiday and looking for things to do and that it was productive use of time. It also painted young people in a really positive light by getting them to providing food they’d cooked themselves”

So what was your vision?  ” through eating and sharing food people could understand and appreciate each other – understanding different cultures and appreciating their food is a great universal starting point! “

What next? ” dance and music festivals next!”

Who paid for all this? ” We won funding through YOF ( Youth Opportunity Fund ) –  it’s a great idea offering young people empowerment by winning funding and running their own projects. We’d love to connect more young people and encourage them to apply for funding to run their own projects”

So thanks to Ife from Shoreditch Youth Forum – Young Hackney

If you have a good project that you find interesting apply for YOF! There’s a deadline coming up!


Hipnotic Summer Fest 2013 – An evening of music

3 Sep

Last Saturday (24/08/13) saw the epic conclusion to the Hipnotic Summer Fest in Hoxton Hall with a spectacular evening of music. A vast range of talent was on show, from drummers, to amazing singers, guitarists to saxophone players. The young talent were supported by Glastonbury performers, The Soothsayers. Soothsayer member Robin explained his reasons for partaking in the project. He told me that he believed that music is fundamental in creating a sense of society within a group of young people, so his aim was to create a reflection of society through music to teach young people about togetherness and teamwork. His aim was proven a success after I spoke to 15 year old Aaron who “thoroughly enjoyed the programme”, as he thought it gave him a life changing  experience that enabled him to continue perusing his dream to make it big in the music industry. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

All in all, I think it’s pretty safe to say that the event was a huge success, and a huge congratulations to all who took part! It was definitely a night to remember!Image

Hipnotic Dance performance review

31 Aug

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What an amazing night I had last week Thursday in Hoxton Hall (22/08/2013) watching yet again brilliant talent from the youth from Hackney.

Hipnotic dance group is based upon 7-19year olds, who have worked extremely hard throughout the past month exploring different types of choreography mainly in Urban dance. They have then used their knowledge based on what they have learnt to create a full dance performance.

I was really impressed to see the amount of talent and energy these youngsters had to showcase in their performance. I was more impressed with the 7-12 year olds who grabbed my attention with showing off their dance skills, during the beginning of the show. It even made me want to get up and join in with the dancers, but probably I would ruin the show if I had done that.

The ending of the show was the highlight of the performance because it was interesting to see all the age groups in the company gather along together to create huge performance, which even ended up with the audience getting involved with the performance.

I would just love to say, well done Hipnotic dance crew  for putting on a fantastic performance, and keep up with the good work. You’re all going to go far with your brilliant talent.