Friday, 30 January 2015

January Recap!

The first month of 2015 has been extremely busy for me with lots of different group meetings and events! Here is a recap of everything I've been involved with during January:

Tuesday, January 6th:
TechTalk group at Henshaws Society for Blind People, discussing the latest accessible software and apps. The first group meeting of the year.

Tuesday, January 13th:
Visit to Henshaws College and the Arts & Crafts Centre in Harrogate as part of my volunteer work placement at the Henshaws Manchester resource centre as part of the marketing team.

Wednesday, January 14th:
Photoshoot with the RNIB

Friday, January 16th:
Rebranding Workshop at Henshaws 

Thursday, January 22nd:
'Nothing About Us Without Us Is For Us' user voice group at the Henshaws Resource Centre in Old Trafford.

Saturday, January 24th:
Collections for Henshaws at the Manchester Beer & Cider Festival 2015 at the National Cycling Centre (Velodrome). £4300 raised altogether over the 4 day period!

Tuesday, January 27th:
Holocaust Memorial Day Service at Westminster City Hall in London commemorating 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Burkenau.

Thursday, January 29th:
Visual Impairment Awareness Training (VIAT) at the Henshaws Resource Centre in Old Trafford as part of the final stage of becoming an official volunteer for Henshaws.

Friday, January 30th:
Collection at Morrison's in Eccles for the Guide Dogs Association for the Blind with the Salford Branch.

Saturday, January 31st:
Collection at Morrison's in Eccles for the Guide Dogs Association for the Blind with the Salford Branch.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Manchester Beer & Cider
Festival 2015

Yesterday, Tami and I attended the final day of the Manchester Beer & Cider Festival 2015, held at the National Cycling Centre (Velodrome) in Manchester, in support of Henshaws Society for Blind People.

I sold programmes and raffle tickets, collected empty beer and cider glasses which added an additional £3 per glass to the total funds raised, and also gave an overview of Henshaws and the services they provide to interested attendees of the festival!

I attended the event last year, again as a volunteer, which helped to raise much-needed funds for Manchester's oldest charity; providing services, support and life skills to other visually impaired and disabled people like me.

I'm sure we've done even better with our fundraising this year, as Tami was the star of the show! She really attracted the crowds, had lots of fusses and even received a small bag of treats from one of the staff members working at the Velodrome!

I want to say a big thank you to everyone who donated to our buckets throughout the 4 day event. You have helped in making a massive difference to those supported by Henshaws!

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Memory Makers Project for
Holocaust Memorial Day 2015

In the Autumn I was very kindly invited to be involved with the Memory Makers project as part of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust's 2015 celebrations; commemorating survivors of the Holocaust and other subsequent genocides through the platform of creative responses showcasing the survivors' personal stories. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkeneau.

Six other British writers and artists, including Stephen Fry, also took part in the project producing specially created works in various formats, such as; illustration, poetry, ceramics, sculpture, animation and film to portray the experiences of the genocide survivors that they met in person.

Meeting with Sabina

I met with 92 year old Sabina Miller, a survivor of the Holocaust, during early October in Central London.

She told me her powerful story of a loving childhood in Poland and a family unit torn apart simply because they were Jewish. They were sent to the Warsaw Ghetto and contracted Typhus, resulting in Sabina losing her family to illness and mystery. She fled to the Polish countryside hiding in the ground, saw the constant flow of trucks transporting Jewish people away, and adopted the identities of non-Jewish girls to escape capture. Her only possession left from the war to remember her family by is a checkered cardigan that she wore the day her family were sent to the Warsaw Ghetto. Everything else was lost.

Meeting with Sabina inspired me both personally and creatively. This was someone who had everything taken away from her simply because of who she was, but through fierce courage and determination overcame adversity and hardship. I admire Sabina greatly and it was a true honour to have met her.

Illustrated Response

'Sabina' by Kimberley Burrows, 2014

When I first met Sabina and she told me her incredible story, a few elements immediately grabbed me and stayed in my mind; the powerfully haunting image of two young girls (one of whom was a young Sabina) huddling together in a hole in the ground, against a snowy backdrop, with just a blanket between them, the harrowing sight of trucks continuously visiting the farm where Sabina worked, taking and transporting any Jewish people they could find, and the Sabina today and how incredibly strong and positive she is now that she has a large, loving family and no longer has to hide her identity.

She left the war without a family so I wanted to illustrate the family she has now, with Sabina surrounded by her grandchildren, the youngest of which is enveloped in her only possession left from the War – a patterned cardigan – which will be passed down through the generations.

I knew that I wanted to capture all of this powerful imagery in my response that I have called, simply, ‘Sabina’. My gift to her. Meeting her was such an honour and a wonderful experience where, in those few short hours we spent talking to each other, she influenced me beyond my imagining. Through her powerful storytelling, kind nature and wise words I have learned first-hand how strong people can be even after enduring the loss of family, identity and hope and that love, kindness and positivity can truly conquer all.

Keep the Memory Alive

My page on the HMDT website can he accessed here with a full overview of why I wanted to take part in the project, meeting Sabina for the first time, her full story of surviving the Holocaust, and the creative process behind my illustration.

Holocaust Memorial Day is held annually on January 27th. Find out how you can get involved with the Memory Makers project by clicking here. You can also follow the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, 19 January 2015

MaMoMi Initiative Article:
Adding the Sparkle to Illustration!

Before Christmas I did an interview with the MaMoMi Initiative; a non-profit organisation helping to 'explore, research and interpret visual art to the visually impaired' - founded by Museum Educator and Artist, Andrew Mashigo. The interview was posted as an article on their website shortly afterwards.

It covers everything from my early years discovering my visual impairment and the impact it had on my childhood, to the development of my passion for illustration, to winning the RNIB's Young Illustrator of the Year Award for 2014. The article even includes all of my illustrations produced for Insight Magazine!

You can read the full article by heading over to the MaMoMi Initiative website here.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Interview with VI Talk

I was kindly asked to take part in an interview with VI Talk for their audioBoom channel before Christmas. The interview covered many aspects of my life including my illustrations as the RNIB's Young illustrator of 2014, campaigning work, recent match to my Guide Dog and the training we would be undertaking throughout December, as well as my aspirations for the future.

You can listen to my interview below via the embedded player. I have also provided a transcript underneath.

VI Talk Interview

We talk to Kimberley all about the wonderful and inspirational things she does for the RNIB, Henshaws and various other organisations and we wish her luck as she starts
training with her first Guide Dog.


VI Talk: We would like to introduce Kimberley Burrows who is currently the RNIB's 'Illustrator of the Year' amongst other things. So, hi Kimberley!

Kimberley: Hello! 

VI Talk: HI Kimberley!

Kimberley: Hi Jo!

VI Talk: Do you want to start off by telling us a little bit about yourself, I know that you have many accomplishments - which we are hopefully going to cover all of them! Can you tell us a little bit about your background? You obviously are visually impaired...

Kimberley: I am, yes. I've been visually impaired all of my life. I was born as a premature baby with Congenital Cataracts but those weren't noticed until I was 4 years old so my optic nerves never developed properly and they had to do what they could with the cloudy vision that I had. So when I did have the Cataracts removed at Great Ormond Street Hospital, in London, I only had 10% vision in one eye and just a little bit of light perception in the other.

Since then, I lost my confidence a bit and it's only recently that I've actually started to achieve things thanks to the help of Henshaws Society for Blind People and also the RNIB. I do various things with both of those - for example, I'm the RNIB's 'Young Illustrator of the Year' for 2014, I have a work placement with Henshaws and I'm also a volunteer and fundraiser with them and with the RNIB I do a lot of campaigning and I'm a Co-Chair of their young person's campaigning network, called Envision. It's an acronym and stands for the English Network of visually Impaired Spokespeople for the Improvement of Obstacles Nationwide! I'm the only person that remembers that as I'm the one that came up with it!

VI Talk: Oh wow!

Kimberley: So I do campaigning as well and I also do a lot of blogging. I run my own blog and also do contributor blog posts for Henshaws, Living Paintings, and the Huffington Post. I think that's a brief overview of everything!

VI Talk: So if we start with being the RNIB's 'Young Illustrator of the Year', how did that come about?

Kimberley: Because I did the campaigning stuff first (in October last year I went to the Houses of Parliament with some of the campaigning team and some of them learned that I was interested in art and illustration) when it came to the time in November that the magazine were looking for their new illustrator and columnist, one of the staff members forwarded that information onto me and I then had 4 or 5 weeks to complete my piece, get that sent off to enter the competition and it wasn't too long, probably 4 or 5 days, that I received a response that I won the 'Young Illustrator of the Year' and would continue to do 6 more pieces throughout the year - so that was brilliant!

VI Talk: That's really exciting!

Kimberley: Definitely! I was so, so happy!

VI Talk: So what does that involve as part of that role?

Kimberley: Every 2 months I was given a different theme to work with. I had 6 pictures to do altogether, for the 12 months, which would be different themes such as; support at the time of sight loss or achievements and goals for the year, and how you've built up your confidence and skills. So I was given a very vague theme and then had to plan which colour palettes I wanted to use, which imagery to use and then I'd sketch some ideas and get the final one drawn. I had a deadline and had to complete before then and when it was e-mailed off I would share the illustration on my blog and on my Twitter.

VI Talk: So that must be quite difficult as a visually impaired person, particularly having very little sight, the concentration and everything must be hard.

Kimberley: Absolutely, yes!

VI Talk: How do you go about doing that; in small stages?

Kimberley: Yeah, thankfully I was given a good deadline where I had about a month and a half to complete each one and it does take me about a month to complete just one piece of A4. So everyday I would just work at it because I can only focus for 15 to 20 minutes at a time so I can only concentrate for a little bit and build it up, as you said, and get it completed and sent off.

I think it's all down to organisation as well; I definitely have to do a lot of organisation of my different equipment and tools. Everything has to be Brailled, like my pencil crayons, paints, watercolours and chalks, so I can know which mediums are which and also which colours are which! I have, in the past, put the wrong colour somewhere and had to try and make it work! I wasn't able to see the colour properly and just had to go with it. So there are surprises with my visual impairment but you've just got to work with it!

VI Talk: You said before that you do a lot of campaigning and you've recently been in Brussels, haven't you? Do you want to tell us more about that?

Kimberley: Sure! Myself and another person from the young person's campaigning network that I'm a part of, Envision, were personally requested to go to this event - myself because of my interest in social media and technology, and the other young lady because she's originally from Spain and is very good with languages. So it was in conjunction with the European Blind Union and they set up a two-day event at European Parliament in Brussels called a High-Speed Bling Date event. It was where MEPs, journalists and researchers are matched to their 'dates', who are blind, and we would then demonstrate some of the difficulties that we face - using interactive objects to show them how hard it is to use LED and touch screens, manufactured goods and services, websites and apps.

VI Talk: Wow, that sounds really interesting!

Kimberley: It was, it was fantastic. I was so glad that I went! It was a really wonderful event and hopefully we did showcase that we really need a strong European Accessibility Act.

VI Talk: Yes, awareness is so important isn't it?

Kimberley: It is, yes!

VI Talk: So, really exciting this bit, you were recently nominated for an award, weren't you?

Kimberley: I was! With Henshaws Society for Blind People.

VI Talk: And you got the award, didn't you?

Kimberley: I did! I'm so happy I just couldn't believe it. I was told that I was nominated for 3 of the awards on the night but then I found out that I wasn't actually the finalist for those awards - but then the big surprise of the evening was that I was a finalist for the main award of the evening, which was the Gillian Lawrence Award, and as soon as they read my name out that I'd won I just burst into tears. I just couldn't believe it! I was so happy and everyone was just so wonderful; I couldn't stop hugging everyone! It was just fantastic to be recognised for everything that I do for Henshaws and all of the achievements and how much I've changed as well. About a year and a half ago there's no way that I would have even been able to do this interview! I was so shy and so reserved and now you can't shut me up!

VI Talk: You also just about to embark on a completely new venture next week. Do you want to tell us about that?

Kimberley: Yes, definitely! So excited! I have just been matched to my Guide Dog, she's tiny, tiny, tiny as I'm tiny myself. She's absolutely gorgeous, she's called Tami and she's a gold Labrador-cross-Retriever. I got the news 2 days before my birthday, and I got to meet her the day before my birthday - so it felt like the best gift ever. We start training next week on December 1st. She's my first Guide Dog and I'm just so excited for this next chapter of my life to start being more independent, going to places on my own, and using public transport. I just cannot wait!

VI Talk: Aww, it's fantastic - so exciting when you get your first dog!

Kimberley: I know!

VI Talk: I've had mine just 4 years and it's a completely new way of life. It opens so many doors. So, will you tell us how you get on in a couple of months?

Kimberley: Absolutely! I don't mind at all. I'm so enthusiastic about Tami and I love her to bits already. I can just tell it's going to be an amazing partnership and she's certainly the dog for me! So I'll definitely keep you posted!

VI Talk: Aww! Definitely do, we'll have to do an update when you've worked with her a little bit and see how it's going on. You can tell everybody what it's like to have a first Guide Dog. There will be people out there who will be umm-ing and ahh-ing as to whether it's the right thing for them.

Kimberley: I'd say definitely go for it! You don't know until you try and it can only do good things for you - so definitely give it a go!

VI Talk: Aww, you sound so excited!

Kimberley: I am really excited!

 VI Talk: You were telling us before we started recording that you also have started working with the survivors of the Holocaust?

Kimberley: Yes, it's for the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and it's the next project that I'm working on in my illustrating career. Obviously i's the end of the year and I'm no longer the RNIB's Illustrator of the Year - they're now running the contest for the new one, so I've already had quite a few offers to expand my career and start doing some other different projects.

One of the e-mails I received was from the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and I had the opportunity to Sabina Miller who is 92 years old from Poland, who now lives in London and has done since the War ended. It was just an incredible opportunity to speak with someone so inspiring and so positive! We did that meeting so I could then translate her story into an illustration to then be presented and exhibited at an exhibition in London. This will be on the Holocaust Memorial Day on 27th January, so I'm in the process of getting my piece finished now. I believe that Stephen Fry has just joined the campaign while he met with another survivor, so he's really spearheading it and getting a lot of media attention.So it's quite exciting, definitely!

VI Talk: That's brilliant! So, what does the future hold for Kimberley? As if you haven't got enough on your plate! But what are your goals and what do you see for the future for yourself - because you're still very young!

Kimberley: This year has been absolutely crazy but I've loved every minute of it! I've been so busy every day, there's been something different and I love that variation that I've got. So over the next few years, definitely continue with the campaigning with the RNIB, continue with my illustrating because that's my passion, continue writing - whether it's through blogging or writing columns and who knows what opportunities could arise, continue my work placement, volunteering and fundraising for Henshaws; they've done so much for me and I want to give them everything that I have to say thank you, train with Tami and graduate with her, and take over the world with her!

VI Talk: Do you know something, if you said you were going to I think I'd believe you as well! So if people want to follow your take-over of the world, how can they follow your blogs or things you're posting?

Kimberley: On Twitter I'm @Glittered, and if you'd like to follow my blog I do post about once a week  - sometimes more, and I'm gleamed.blogspot.co.uk. Thank you so much for your views, I really appreciate them!

VI Talk: That's brilliant Kim! It's been an absolute pleasure talking to you and you are so inspirational and I'm sure anybody listening, any youngsters, will be so inspired!

Kimberley: Aww, thank you! Thank you very much!

VI Talk: And follow your dreams, I guess! Go for it and we'll watch out for when you take over the world!

Kimberley: Thank you very much, thank you!

I would like to thank Jo and Michael for the lovely interview!

You can visit the VI Talk websiteFacebook groupFacebook page, Twitter and AudioBoom to keep up-to-date with the latest discussion, information and support for visually impaired and blind people.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Transitions Article for
Trafford CIL Newsletter

I was recently contacted to write an article for the Trafford CIL (Centre for Independent Living) newsletter, on the topic of the different transitions throughout life. As a severely sight-impaired person transitions have varied from being easy to very difficult depending on the amount of support I have received at the time - and I was more than happy to share my experiences with other disabled people.

Transitions: Your Stories

This edition we say a big thank you to Kimberley via Henshaws Society for Blind People for kindly sharing her personal experience of transition towards adulthood…

"Transitioning in life can be difficult, both emotionally and physically, presenting new challenges and learning curves. Nothing in life can stay the same and we all have to transition in some way; whether it's from childhood, adolescence and adulthood or further learning to employment or voluntary work. IT can be tough to adapt quickly and to accept sudden or gradual change. Now, imagine what it would be like to go through those important transitional stages whilst losing your sight.

As a young severely sight-impaired person, I have had different experiences when it comes to transitioning into the different phases of my life so far. Some have been welcome changes; others have not been so welcome. All of them have been dependent on the varying amount of support I have received at the time.

The transition from primary school to high school was an easy one; an exciting prospect, as I was still very young and most children tend to adapt to different environments easily. I received the same level of support from teachers and peers as I did previously and I still managed as best as I could and received excellent grades. However, as I grew older and learned more about the extent of my sight condition and other health issues, I developed severe depression and anxiety making later transitions more difficult.

The idea of change suddenly became terrifying. I dreaded the moment I would be leaving the high school I was confident and comfortable in during the previous 5 years. The idea of college provided me with a sense of uncertainty and apprehension. I didn't feel like I belonged because of my visual impairment - which was constantly getting worse. No support had been offered to me thus far and I was too scared to reveal the extent of my condition and the support I desperately needed, in fear of being treated to anyone else. As a sixteen year old I wanted nothing more than to fit in and be perceived as a 'normal' teenager.

After recovering from my other illnesses, and coming to terms with my dwindling vision, I began to accept who I was after being in denial for so long throughout my later teenage years. I have received life-changing support from Henshaws Society for Blind People over the past year and a half in terms of living with sight loss, daily living skills, mobility training, employability guidance and, now, a work placement with the fundraising and marketing team. Being given the opportunity to develop friendships and connect with other visually impaired people for the first time has also increased my confidence and sense of well-being. The combination of learning new skills, being offered constant support and a strong social network has helped me to become who I am today.

Becoming a volunteer and undertaking a work placement has been the easiest transition of all thanks to Henshaws and the wonderful work that they do. I have recently been matched to my Guide Dog and will undergo intense training which will eventually see me lead a more independent life; travelling alone, accessing social opportunities and being a part of the working environment - just like anyone else.

Ten years ago I would have found this to be the most daunting thing I have ever faced. Today I relish in new challenges, feel a strong sense of determination and look forward to my next transition!

You can find out more about the Trafford Centre for Independent Living and the services they offer by visiting their website here.