Eye Inspire book offers a vision for Yvette and others with impaired sight
Yvette Chivers had “quite severe” myopia (short-sightedness) as a child, but was optimistic that the problem had been resolved when she got contact lenses as a teenager.
However, when she moved to London to start her career as a creative advertising executive, a high street optician diagnosed her as having retinitis pigmentosa (RP) after a routine eye test.
A referral to Moorfields Eye Hospital confirmed the diagnosis, and added that the usual prognosis meant that most of her sight would be lost within 10 years. A month later she was made redundant and moved back to the family home in Cambridge.
“I was just 24 and thought my life was over,” she recalls, “or at least, that the life I wanted to have was gone.”
A terrifying future seemed to be her fate and, in her distress, she turned to music.
“I think it was the one thing I could rely on, knowing that I still had my hearing,” she explains. Music, as for so many others, proved to be a salvation – of sorts.
“I really have no idea how, but through my passion and perseverance, I ended up running my own monthly club night in Cambridge for 10 years, and DJing in super-clubs such as the Ministry of Sound in London, warehouse parties in Berlin and on amazing stages at huge festivals including the Secret Garden Party.
“When you are presented with losing your sight, you can either let it consume you, or you can just take every opportunity possible. I did a trek in the Himalayas and the Andes for charity, I did crazy things like bungee jumps and skydiving. I wanted to experience as much as I possibly could before my sight totally left me.”
But sight did not leave Yvette.
“It’s slowed down,” she says of her condition. “Normally it’s quite aggressive and many sufferers are blind by the time they are 30, but every year I do a check-up at Hinchingbrooke Hospital and for the last one the consultant was very impressed. I’m very lucky.”
Now she’s kicking on. Projects initiated are now lined up for completion under the umbrella of Eye Inspire, a not-for-profit Yvette started three years ago whose motto is ‘Inspiring young people with sight loss to achieve their goals’.
The main focus is a book which has already found a publisher.
“The project launched softly last summer,” Yvette says, “with a music workshop with CamSight in Cambridge, but things are ramping up now with the launch this summer, and then we will start organising talks to sight loss youth groups in the UK and internationally, when travel restrictions are lifted.
“The book will include 16 stories from contributors, and we have six confirmed so far including Justin Bishop, a US-based visually impaired skateboarder, and two members of the British judo paralympic team, Elliot Stewart and Chris Skelley.”
The others are an American singer, an Australian Paralympic triathlon athlete, a British entrepreneur and a travel blogger. More contributors are currently being sought.
“We are on the search for contributors to the book – visually impaired people, not just from Cambridge but worldwide.”
All 16 contributors, in addition to Yvette, have faced going blind at some point in their lives, and all the turmoil that foreboding brings.
“But rather than become victims to futures of darkness,” Yvette says, “each and every one of them have used this darkness to spark their inner light.”
For Yvette, this inner light set her on a creative path of discovering and developing her writing and organisational skills, and she has had support from her publisher, Emerging Proud Press. Yvette shares a connection with Katie Mottram, Emerging Proud’s leading light, because both their organisations have had seed-funding from the same charity, Torquay-based the Missing Kind, which supports empowerment and self-sustainability projects.
“Eye Inspire fits perfectly with the ethos of my project #EmergingProud,” says Katie, “which gives people who have been through adversity a voice to share their stories of how their pain became a catalyst for their personal transformation. Our previous books have been all on mental health but it felt right to branch out in this way in order to show that any kind of human adversity causes emotional distress in order to normalise that emotional journey and give hope to others who may be struggling.
“I invited Yvette to create her own pocket book of hope in our KindaProud series.
“The #EmergingProud grassroots campaign was launched in 2017 but we formed the not-for-profit publishing arm in 2019 and published our first book in May last year. Yvette’s book will be the seventh in the series so far.”
This inspirational book, titled Emerging Proud Through Eye Sight Loss with Eye Inspire, “will be packed full of dreams being fulfilled and won’t fail to inspire even the most ardent disbelievers”. It will also be released as a free audio book distributed UK-wide to sight loss groups, alongside additional podcasts and videos.
But the urgent thing is to get more stories of sight loss included.
“We need 11 more, but I’m hoping for more than that so the publishers can choose the ones they want,” says Yvette.
To support the vision– a rewarding and rewarded life for people with sight concerns – email firstname.lastname@example.org.
More by this authorMike Scialom