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‘Rising Star’ sight loss campaigner shortlisted for Welsh award

Kirsty James

A Caerphilly woman with sight loss has been nominated as a Rising Star at the prestigious 2020 Womenspire Awards.

Kirsty James, 31, is a Campaigns Officer for sight loss charity RNIB Cymru and has been shortlisted for the award because of her passion, determination and dedication to breaking down the barriers faced by blind and partially sighted people across Wales.

As a teenager Kirsty developed Stargardt disease, an inherited eye condition that leads to progressive vision loss. For a while she hid her condition from those around her but one day, whilst at university, she woke up to find that her condition had deteriorated rapidly and it completely changed the course of her life, Kirsty could no longer become a teacher as she had planned.

Over time Kirsty was able to accept her sight loss and started a traineeship with RNIB Cymru, working on a young people’s project. Kirsty was then appointed to the role of Technology Officer, supporting blind and partially sighted people of all ages to use technology.

Three and a half years after joining RNIB Kirsty is now the lead Campaigns Officer in Wales supporting blind and partially sighted people to break down the barriers that they face every day at both a local and national level. Kirsty leads on some of the charity’s most important campaigns in Wales.

Kirsty said “I was really shocked to have been nominated for an award and then delighted to have been shortlisted. I’m just so lucky to be doing a job I am passionate about and that makes life better for people with sight loss in Wales.”

Womenspire is run by gender equality charity Chwarae Teg to celebrate, recognise and highlight the achievements and contributions of remarkable women from all walks of life. Now in their fifth year, the 2020 awards will take place online (due to COVID-19) from 7pm-9pm on Tuesday 29 September.

Hosted by ITV’s Andrea Byrne and actor Carli De’La Hughes, the ceremony will stream over ITV’s Facebook Live and Twitter. The evening promises to be a night to remember full of inspirational stories and entertainment.

The Rising Star Award celebrates women who have entered the workplace in the last five years and have already achieved success and demonstrated real potential.

RNIB Cymru Director Ansley Workman said: “I have worked with Kirsty since she started at RNIB Cymru and her positivity, energy and can-do attitude have helped to change the lives of many blind and partially sighted people in Wales for the better. Kirsty is passionate about supporting others and also volunteers in her own time, mentoring young people with sight loss and speaking about her Charles Bonnet Syndrome, in which visual hallucinations occur as a result of vision loss. Good luck at the awards, Kirsty!”

Cerys Furlong, Chief Executive, Chwarae Teg, said; “Kirsty’s story is a really powerful one of triumph over adversity and she is truly deserving of her place as a Womenspire finalist. She has overcome many barriers and now works with a passion to help others do the same, making her a real role model for people who experience sight loss.  Kirsty has demonstrated tremendous strength of character and achieved so much already despite the challenges she has faced.

“At Womenspire we want to shine a light on incredible women like Kirsty who make such a difference to others.”