Tuesday, 12 June 2018

A closer look. Volunteer: Angela

Spotlight on :

Yoga Blind's; Angela

“there is something that we can all do to make a difference in somebody’s life.”

Angela is an unusual spirit; working in the demanding industry of eventing means she has had to learn how to balance her life, mind and body to preserve herself. Physical exercise is a huge part of her life- Angela believes in the importance of finding ones centre and spending time really connecting with mind and body. Yoga is her chosen path to feeling connected and rested. 

Angela is our Yoga Blind instructor at Bright Eyes; happily devoting her time and passion to teaching both visually impaired and blindfolded sighted participants. 

Yoga Blind is an innovative new project, the first of its kind- challenging both sighted and visually impaired people to try something a little unusual and find new ways of really connecting with the potential of one’s body. “I like a challenge” says Angela; 

  “Yoga teaches the mind to read the body, and allows the body to prove to the mind what it is capable of.”  

At Bright Eyes; we love her thinking. Teaching the mind about the body’s capabilities by allowing the body to try, succeed and learn is a huge part of educating our low vision little ones- building their confidence and self esteem through their experiences. Yoga, as Angela says: "is about turning our attention inwards,” “shutting out concerns of judgement and self judgement.”

The sad truth that exists is that the world is not equipped to incorporate visually impaired people as it should be- initiatives like Blind Yoga put a light on the lack of facilities and programs available and encourage people to ‘walk a while in another shoes.’

“It is also good for the visually impaired to know that people out there are committed, dedicated, and wanting to support and assist where possible.”

When asked about Bright Eyes and the work we do, Angela says:
“It is Fantastic!
The ladies that I have had the fortune of interacting with have been nothing but enthusiastic, passionate and committed to their cause, and work, and I especially love the fact that they go out of their way to teach the kids that they do not have to live confined in these barriers that society in general places on them.  They give the kids the confidence to go out there and live their lives to the fullest.” 

We owe Angela the biggest most heartfelt thank you for her amazing work and continued support here at Bright Eyes.

To everyone out there: Angela has this wonderfully positive message to share:

"Get involved! Get busy living, and do not take your minds and bodies for granted!"

Monday, 23 April 2018

A Fantastic Family Day

Bright Eyes Family Day

There is nothing so wonderful as having all our families in one place, enjoying each others company and sharing their stories. On Saturday; 21 April, we had the pleasure of hosting Bright Eyes families for a bring and share picnic in Dbn Botanic Gardens. It was a time for all our parents to meet each other, spend time with their children and connect with the Bright Eyes Family. The children LOVED it, as did we.

Here are some of our pics of our lovely families


Bright Eyes strives to be a place of hope and a haven of care and support- along with that is our desire to provide parents with the support and connectivity they need too. Family Days (amongst others) are our way of doing this. We look forward to our next one.


Monday, 13 February 2017

My friend Carron. She can change the world.

Carron Strachan

I have a very dear friend. 
She is completely different to anyone I've ever met- but not in the way other people might first believe her to be. 

Carron is completely unique right down to her core- her mind, her heart, her soul. She's just different.  She's practical, active, forward thinking and unsentimental. She's never disappointed by what she sees or faces and always believes in moving forward.  

She doesn't get stuck on things. She never longs for times, things or people gone by and she believes anything is possible to those who are willing to do the work.

She's empowered

When we first met she was just about as wide as she was tall (or rather- short.) 5months pregnant with her son Jack, working in Umbilo- at the KZN Blind Society and single handedly managing the children services division.  I expected to walk into a little run down house full of sad blind children in a very dodgy part of Umbilo and be immediately depressed. (I confess pure ignorance here.)  But, it wasn't. It wasn't a sad place at all. The children were playing, the staff were chatting happily and the house itself was freshly painted, wonderfully neat and tidy and terribly sweet. Modest; yes, but sweet.  It didn't take me long to figure out that Carron was the reason the school was the way it was. I worked with Carron for 5 months before taking my final exams, and I knew back then- she was different.  Carron didn't behave as you'd expect a manager to. She did everything she asked of her staff and more; she cleaned alongside them, made the childrens food and fed them, changed nappies,  potty trained, washed clothes, wiped down windows and furniture and never acted like she was above anyone.  She ran the entire school and also taught the preschool class- even as a fully pregnant woman she hardly ever sat down.

It wasn't just what she did though- it was also how she did it. Carron has this way of making light of everything, of 'finding the funny' everywhere. She chatted and joked with the staff through every messy situation, always putting a positive spin on the events. She gave the children nick names, describing their behavior and personalities and always cuddling them as she explained her choice. She had time for all of them. They all knew love. 

At this point I should probably mention that Carron too is visually impaired. And, for those who can't tell by meeting her, very low vision at that.  She's the most 'seeing' blind person I know- and an amazing life lesson in her very existence. Carron can do everything - (probably except; drive my car..) Her gift to the world is that she's never made her low visions an excuse or the whole focus of who she is.
My gift is that I've done the same.

Carron is firstly; my closest friend. She's an aunty to my kids, the manager of my intervention centre and my everyday support. She's a wife, a mother, a sister and daughter, a teacher, a councillor and a friend. Somewhere at the bottom of a very long list of all Carron is - you'll find 'visually impaired.'

We started Bright Eyes together in 2009 and it is the product of a shared dream to provide a very special place of support, care and nurtured growth for visually impaired children and their families.
I truly believe that much of our success and continued passion is due to the strong friendship and trust that we share.

I love seeing the look on a parent's face when they realize the centre manager and main carer is visually impaired herself- and moments later; the look of relief, then hope- as they realize their child may be capable of the same full life and skills Carron is.

Everyday she's the first to open the centre doors and the last to close them in the evening. She knows every parent's work schedule and every child's favourite toy. She greets everyone with a smile, kind compliment and cheeky joke. She kisses the kids- all the kids.
She's the only person I know who can put any baby to sleep. Any baby. Probably because she'd spend all day rocking them and singing in a low voice if that's what it took.

She listens. She listens to everyone. She'll spend 30mins at the door comforting a stressed mum or waiting for a new child to feel comfortable enough to come inside.  She never judges. She believes in everyone's ability to make their own choices and she doesn't waste time forming her own opinion of it.

She can 'find the nice.' it's one of my most favorite sayings of Carron's.  "Always find the nice. In every child, every parent. Its our task to always find the nice."

She tries harder and works harder and pushes herself harder than any person I've ever met. She does it naturally- it's just how she is.

Carron has her own story- part of it shaped who she is and part of it taught her what she knew she would always refuse to become. One day I hope she'll share it with you. For my part- Im consistently and immeasurably grateful for her and all she is.

She's different. Thank heavens.

 I  could never trust Bright Eyes to anyone else. She's an example to all the families that find us, and a loud announcement to the world: 

with love: Cally

Monday, 9 May 2016

A personal post: Why Moms Cry. by Cally

Why moms cry

This morning my sister reminded me of something I told one of the mums at Bright Eyes. 
It was something that resonated with her and something I've said before to mums I've had in my care. It occurred to me that it might be something worth sharing with other mums- to maybe give the slightest bit of insight into the daily battles our mums face, also: because, I know, that truly lovely, kind and empathetic mums ( of disabled children or not) will understand and empathise with my message.

On many occasions I embrace my role in new Bright Eyes families lives as more than their early interventionist. I am also their external support, their sounding board and their understanding friend in this very new world of raising a visually impaired/disabled child. The parents I see come to me after many weeks and months of doctors, neurologists, genealogists, ophthalmologist, optometrists and specialists. 
They've studied the inside of countless hospital waiting rooms, they've restrained their crying babies arms as she's been poked and prodded. Some have had to sign papers allowing doctors to sedate, cut open, X-ray, brain scan etc etc etc their precious children and then stand near by and watch it all happen. 
They've been given report after report, referral, after referral and have heard opinion after opinion, and everything very scientifically worded and always with a gentle but very negative resolve. 
Some of my parents dig in their child's eye socket to remove false eye balls each evening, some have to fight each day to keep a patch on their baby's 'strong' eye. Most come to me very cautiously and wary. All come in exhausted. On most occasions I am the first person in this specialist area to ever smile and laugh during our first meeting, point out the positives and offer a happy spin on the future. About 5 mins into our first meeting I see something change I their faces. I see, relief. 

From that moment I know we are connected forever. I know I have their trust and I know they will allow me to do what I do, even on the days it seems hard. I know they will always be honest with me and I know we are now a team. Recently I found an SMS sent by one of our past mums. In the message she wrote " I loved you from that first day. Because I knew you could see that there was a big future for my son, just like I could. Nobody else could. I knew you believed. That's why I trusted you." 

The mums I have cry.
They cry often and they cry greatly. 
I do too sometimes. It's OK.

Y( baby girl I currently see) has the kindest, most loving and very proactive mum. She has spent countless hours with doctors and specialists and every time she has to takeY for follow ups and appointments she dreads every moment. But- she goes, she does what she has to and she pulls herself up and keeps moving forward. Recently she was phoned by a doctors rooms to bring her husband in ,leave Y at home, so the Doctor could return some results and 'discuss possible options.' 
She saw me the day before the consult and as she climbed into the car she said " I just cry. I always sit in these offices, hear what they have to say- and I cry." She was exhausted. It was right then that I told her this- to keep her going and to remind her how freaking amazing she is at being Y's mom. 

I told her- Every time you have to do this, every time you have to walk into one of these horrible situations, listen to a negative evaluation of your daughter and take in even more sadness. Cry. Do it. Cry. Sob. Wail. Let every inch of sad flow through you and feel all of it. Cry as much as you have. Cry! Cry because you are going to Remember this- every tear you cry is one more your child won't have to. You take it on, you take on all the worry, anxiety, uncertainty and sadness- you do it so she doesn't have to. 
You Cry so that she doesn't have to.
If there is ever a reason in the world to cry- I'd say that's the best. 
By the time you get home that evening you do everything as usual. You kiss her, cuddle her, play like you always do and go about your life with her. You've had another terrible day. But she'll never know it. 

And That's why moms cry.

With love, as always


Wednesday, 9 March 2016

A visit worth mentioning. My morning at The Baby Therapy Centre. Pta

By Cally.

On monday I travelled to Joburg to visit some early intervention centres I'd come to hear about.

I wasn't really sure what exactly the purpose of my visits were and what I was hoping to achieve. As an early interventionist, working in the area of disability, the overall rule that guides my daily work is; there's always something to learn. Often I take on tasks, start a frenzy of research or nudge my way into every therapist's room in Durban, without a real 'purpose' for doing so, but with a pesky notion ticking in my head- "There's something here! I can learn something here."

I am never disappointed

So- as I pulled up at The Baby Therapy Centre in Lynnwood, Pretoria, I knew I would be learning something. I hadn't realised though- that I would be feeling something too.

The centre is small and modest- as a NPO the budget is limited. Im sure the ladies who work there would love to have the extra money for colourful wall murals, exciting play equipment and beautiful couches in the waiting area- but as it stands, money must be utilised well, where is it needed- on therapy, care and education.
And here is where it gets beautiful!

I was taken on a tour of the centre by (Manager) Karin; shown each room, talked through every process, introduced to each team member and given a wealth of info about the centre.
Their philosophy is simple-  Every child has potential, every child is given support and encouragement and everyone is invested in that child's development.
Therapists work together (OT, physio, speech and music therapists,) Together they plan interventions, discuss ideas, follow through on each other's  practices and hold a real stake in being apart of an early intervention team. It's unselfish and wonderful- and successful.

The centre has 4 components to it- the main building is the therapy centre itself, alongside it is the day care. The day care exists to ensure that the children of full time working parents are able to receive their necessary therapies. There, I met a lovely nursing sister, Heleen,- who showed an unusual mixture of 'medial factualness' and genuine gentle empathy. Next, Chrysalis, resembling slightly more of an early learning/ pre preschool, ensures the slightly older children receive stimulation and care in the next phase of their formative years. Lastly, the therapy pool, set to the side on the property.

The best part of my visit was definitely meeting the staff. Warm,  fresh faced and smiley- all happy, jovial and completely positive about the centre and the children they work with (some of whom no one else will take.)

There were 2 aspects of the day that remained in my mind after I had left the centre.
The first was a phrase Karin had uttered, (without really a second thought or pause for effect.) She had said, as she walked through the day care smiling at the babies;
"We never turn any baby away."
Now- to anyone who doesn't work in this sector, that sentence may sound obvious. If you're a centre for disability- then you should take in any disability! Well, you can trust me on this one- the ability to know what you can and cannot do, how far your skills extend and how much you can really help- is a humbling and vital skill to acquire. Being able to admit; Others can do better than I can- is as much a gift to the parent as it is to the child. So, when Karin said that sentence, I thought; can it be true?

The proof that it is true- is the 2nd aspect that remained in my mind.

They are honest

They are truly doing as much as they possibly can for the children they see.
How do I know?
I've seen the reverse.

The saddest truth I've had to learn in my life so far is that- in the disability sector, 90% of the educators, therapists, social workers and carers who work with young disabled children are; jaded, unsympathetic and self gratifying.

At the BTC this is not the case. The evolution of the centre proves this. First it was a centre providing necessary holistic therapeutic interventions to young disabled babies. Then, as so many families battled to arrange their work week in order to bring their children for their therapies- the day care opened. When the babies began reaching school-going ages and parents reported being turned away from school after school- Chrysalis opened. Today- the children reach9-10yrs of age and must move on. But, parents are still unable to find centres to accommodate their older children, and the inevitability of a dead-end hits. This fact weighs heavily on the shoulders of all the ladies at the centre. You can see it- they all mention it in soft whispers. They all care. They really do care.

That's the part that I felt.

It is with the upmost respect that 
I write and share this account. 
To the ladies at Baby Therapy Centre:
Thank you 
(my hope is rekindled)
You are lovely.

Cally Gibbs
and Bright Eyes

Saturday, 21 November 2015

A personal post: Saying Goodbye

We say "Good bye" often at Bright Eyes.

We bid farewell to our little ones when the time comes for them to leave us and move onto the next phase in their education and life. 
We've gotten a little better at it as time goes on but it never comes easily.
It's always a day of so many different emotions; we're excited for their prospects, nervous for their future challenges and filled with immense pride for what they've (and we've) achieved so far. Mostly though, we feel terribly sad.

Because there is so much time, patience, planning, work, effort and passion going into our interventions with each child- we really feel their presence and their little spirits in our house. 
We love them,

Saying 'Good bye" is always hard, it takes a few weeks, and months, for us to recover and move forward- and still, for years after they've left, little things will still bring them to the front of our thoughts. 
We feel their energies, somedays more than others.
In some ways we have a house full of ghosts.

I often wonder where we exist in the minds of our past littlies. How much of us will they remember and where do we sit in the story of their lives?
For our part- we remember everything; the first day they sat up by themselves, smiled at us, rolled over, learnt to crawl, cut with scissors, put on their own shoes. 
We remember it all.

At Bright Eyes our motto has always been- to always look ahead, keep moving forward. Imagine possibilities, aim for ideals and keep looking forward to what may be. Remembering the children that have passed through our house is the only time we look back.

saying 'goodbye' to one of our children means something else to us- it means we've helped a child achieve what they needed to in order to move forward. 
It's an accolade. A sad one for us- but an accolade all the same.

We have been privileged to have said 'goodbye' to many children over the passed 6 years and we remember each one completely.

We are full of history. And full of futures. And full of Goodbyes. 

-a personal post

Sunday, 11 October 2015


"Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions; they pass no criticisms." George Eliot

With trepidation she held out her hand and offered up what was left of the feed. The rough, wet tongue responded greedily, quickly devouring every last morsel. The light had made it difficult for her to orientate herself in this strange new environment - unfamiliar smells and sounds bombarded her senses as she searched her memory for any sort of sensory connection. It had been very cold and wet when they arrived: the mud had squelched underfoot. The serenity had been instantly disrupted by the loud bleating of a resident farmyard friend. The sound simultaneously thrilled and terrified her. It was going to be hard to be brave if the farmyard friends insisted on shouting so loudly. 
Uncle Jon had explained that the noisy resident was an animal called a goat. 
And then there was the accompanying smell - strong, pungent, completely removed from anything she had smelled before. With cautious process, Lusanda recognised that this very same smell was now tickling her delicate nostrils. It didn't belong to the sheep - she had the odour of wet fur and warm fireplaces. It couldn't be the cow - she was still in the milking shed. And the little pony was happily taking Deryn for a wander - she could hear his nervous giggle. This led her to the only possible conclusion that one could conclude (with such a lot of information and only a minuscule processing time allocated)...and that conclusion folded out as follows...
The warm, rough tongue dispelling slobber all over her little hand, must, in fact, belong to their designated welcome-crier...the goat.

What a strange predicament to be met with.
Aunty Carron had always assured him that he had the most to say and the loudest voice with which to say it. But now he wasn't being allowed to say very much at all. The goat was back. And every time Deryn began to tell his new farmyard friend of his exciting farm adventures, the goat began bleating incomprehensible stories of his own. He wanted to tell the goat how he had braved the biggest ride of his life - atop a surely larger-than-usual pony...Or how he had helped milk the cow using his own two hands...Or even how he had climbed into a huge box on wheels and been towed around the farm behind a thundering tractor - holding tightly onto Aunty Carron's hand (so she wouldn't be too afraid). But the goat would hear none of it. He had his own stories to tell. Perhaps, thought Deryn, Winnie the Pooh really was right when he said: 
"Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That's the problem." 
Perhaps, for now, he would be one of those people who would just listen. Or perhaps he would just give this goat all of the feed in his hand, and then, while the goat was too busy eating to interrupt, Deryn would finally get to tell his very important story.

The goat was busy again...eating and bleating...bleating and eating.
The cow seemed busy too. That was okay. He had already been the first to milk her. And the first to ride the little pony. Surely there must be a sheep wandering about somewhere. Mongezi narrowed his eyes and scanned the horizon for any sign of a patrolling sheep. He had feed left...and he planned to use it. With mature astuteness, he had worked out that if you timed things just right, the farmyard friends would let you run your hand over their glorious coats whilst they fed greedily from the other hand. He had petted the goat. He had petted the cow. He had even petted the little pony. Now it was the sheep's turn. But she was nowhere to be seen. His determined concentration was suddenly interrupted by a noisy oink. A very noisy oink. He spun around and concentrated hard to determine where the sound was coming from. His ears were working very well today. In no time at all he had located the pig pen and was moving towards it with a confident gait. The pigs sounded happy to see him...and his hands full of delicious feed. They bustled towards him hungrily. They were bigger than he had initially thought. And smellier. Upon closer inspection, they didn't seem too friendly either. Their coats certainly didn't look as nice to pet. But because Mongezi has a very kind heart, he thought that he must still feed the pigs - just as he had fed the goat, and the cow, and the little pony. It had been a day of firsts...he was very proud of that. And so today he would be the first to feed the pigs. He just wouldn't be petting them.

It had been hard to be patient. Especially when you are waiting for something so important. She took a deep breath and counted to ten, again. Sure, there had been plenty of lovely distractions along the way. Milking the cow had been lots of fun - especially when Uncle Jon had shown her how to squirt the warm fresh milk into her mouth. She had not tasted milk straight from the cow before - her's came from the fridge, from a white bottle with a picture of a cow on it. Not an actual, real-life cow. And she had shared a laugh when the bleating goat had given Lusanda such a fright. And she had really enjoyed feeding the sheep - it smelled of wet fur and fireplaces. She had even distracted herself by throwing feed to the rude, smelly pigs. Although she'd done this more to appease Mongezi - he had insisted that the pigs get fed too. All this wonderful distraction had led to this very important moment...

Lia could hardly contain her excitement as she spotted the little pony; Deryn perched awkwardly on its back, heading towards her. Soon it was going to be her turn! Her little legs shivered with anticipation. An excited giggle escaped from her mouth before she had time to push it back in. She looked around for confirmation. Uncle Jon's broad smile re-affirmed what she had already suspected...this was definitely going to be the best part of her day.

Christopher Robin had been very clear: 
"You're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think."
But then again, Christopher Robin had just been hanging out in the hundred acre wood...he certainly had not been in this farmyard. In the hundred acre wood the scariest creatures were heffalumps and woozils...but in the farmyard there were hungry pigs, noisy goats and even a bleating sheep. And a definitely larger-than-usual pony.
Thobe had chosen not to milk the cow, nor to ride the larger-than-usual pony...and he considered these to be smart choices. He had held his breath and held on tight during the tractor ride...which made him feel very strong. But now came the part where he had to be brave. With cautious trepidation he approached the pen housing the noisy goats. Deryn was already there - habitually chatting away to an unsuspecting goat. With a deep breath, he reluctantly stretched out his hand and offered some feed to the closest goat. Even before he had time to think, the goat had greedily licked the pellets from his hand. That was not so bad. A cheer sounded from somewhere behind him. It was his friends...they had seen him being very, very brave. Thobe felt instantly happy. Perhaps that was the key, he thought as he reached out for Aunty Cally's hand. Perhaps you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think, when you are in the company of your friends. And, like Christopher Robin, Thobe certainly had plenty of those. 

As always
waiting for our doorbell to ring 
and new joys to come in
Cally, Carron and Corne

PS: a very special thank you to all the wonderful people who made our visit possible...

*Animal Farmyard and Tea Garden
*Akash from Epsom Seafood/Fisheries
*Sumaya Bassa from Kiddies Meat
*Sunrise Fruit & Veg
*Enchanted Gardens
*Musgrave Watch Shop