An evening with Blind Sports Victoria – Zoom event

Date | Time
Wed 01 December, 2021 7:30pm - 9:00pm

About the event

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Guide Dogs Victoria and Blind Sports and Recreation Victoria are excited to invite you to this upcoming online event. Join us to find out what Blind Sports and Recreation Victoria has to offer from BSRV Program Manager Miriam Bilander and to hear firsthand from Blind Sports players Phoebe David and Shannon Jones about their experience and achievements. The presentation will be followed by time for questions and discussion on activities you can get involved in.

Location: This is a Zoom event.
Register online to receive the link to join on the day.

Speaker bios

Miriam Bilander is the Program Manager NorthWest at Blind Sports & Recreation Victoria. Miriam has been with BSRV for 11 years now and comes with a Masters of Community Development and a Degree in Anthropology. Miriam’s position is part-time and she also works as a Youth Participation Officer at Moreland City Council during the week. Miriam is fully sighted, but was drawn to this role due to both her grandmother and mother developing cataracts that significantly impaired their vision. Miriam’s passions include travel, yoga, mosaicing, gardening and her family.

Phoebe David is an Ambassador for Blind Sports and Recreation Victoria (BSRV) and has lived with macular degeneration for about 15 years. Macular Degeneration is an eye condition that causes damage to the macular at the back of the eye, leading to central vision loss. In the last 5 years her condition worsened and she struggled to cope with her vision loss, becoming isolated and feeling alone in her condition. Phoebe said she lived in denial. She realised she no longer wanted to go to certain places, because it was too difficult. “I started to become nervous about not seeing stairs or steps, for example, so I just didn’t go out anymore.”

At the end of last year Phoebe joined BSRV and she said ‘getting involved with Blind Sports changed my life’. Phoebe heard about BSRV’s Tennis Program on Friday nights at Melbourne Park Tennis Centre. After initially thinking she couldn’t play tennis, Phoebe was encouraged by BSRV CEO Maurice Gleeson to come along and give it a go and went from “I can’t”, to “I can, I will.”

Playing Blind Tennis and being with other people who have experienced vision loss was a game changer for Phoebe. Her self esteem and confidence increased enormously. “I now believe in myself. I want to develop my skills, not just in Blind Tennis, but across all facets of my life.” “I want to compete.” Phoebe says.

“However, it’s not just about playing tennis, it’s also about the social interaction. For the first time in my life I’ve found other people who have experienced vision loss. We are now starting to meet for coffee. For me, it’s not just sport, it’s friendship.”

Phoebe wants to encourage others who, like her, may be thinking that they can’t do it. At BSRV there’s something for everyone. You may choose to play, watch or get involved by volunteering. Phoebe says she has learned so much from others by being involved. By becoming an Ambassador she hopes to help others into the future.

Shannon Jones was told by the ophthalmologist that he had Retinitis Pigmentosa and that his sight would deteriorate. He was told to stop driving his car immediately and his employment came to an abrupt halt. He was devastated and turned to alcohol and substances. He said, “I was in a very dark place, with very dark thoughts. It was three years later that my fiancé told me enough self pity. I googled AFL Blind, as I had played AFL from the age of nine to 30.”

He attended a come and try day and his life received an immediate injection of positivity. “The coach challenged me on the first day to stop smoking and lose weight. I threw my packet of cigarettes into the bin and have not smoked since. I lost 20 kilos and started to exercise. AFL Blind and Mikey saved my life, he said”

I keep pinching myself. I look back from where I came from and it brings a tear to my eye. Tears of joy.”

“I met so many fabulous people at AFL Blind, people who had far less sight than me, who were kicking lifetime goals.”

Shannon started working as a Community Engagement Program Officer  in April at St Kilda Football club and deliver a character strengths program called ‘Play to your Strengths’

Shannon said he jumps out of bed to do his work with AFL. “I have a purpose, I am needed.”

My life has never been as good as it is now. I love life, I love being blind.”

Shannon likes being independent, and has learned the importance of having good people in his life, supportive people who can help him when needed.

Shannon lives by the belief “I always try to turn what I see as a negative into a positive.”

He also said that he “enjoys taking himself outside his comfort zone and loves a challenge.”

Shannon is very happy to be an Ambassador of Blind Sports. To him, “inclusivity is everything, giving people a go, an opportunity to enjoy life is so important, encouraging people to enjoy being part of their community. “I believe that sport and community go hand in hand, that everyone is entitled to be able to enjoy sport and recreation.”

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