Charlie was diagnosed with optic never hypoplasia and nystagmus at three months old. He also has ocular albinism and has been registered blind from the age of 11 years old.
“As my mum has the same conditions as me, I have always had her full support and understanding. She is the only person in the world that can truly see through my eyes.”
This hasn’t stopped Charlie from attending a mainstream school and aiming high for the future: “I’m currently in year 10 and my goal is to one day become a barrister and have a career in criminal law. I have amazing support from LSA’s and they really try to make everything accessible for me. It’s hard, but I still aim to do as much as I can and be as independent as possible.”
Despite the goals he has set for himself, Charlie has faced many challenges throughout his school life, but is determined to not let anything be a barrier for his progression and education. “Since aged 11-12, I have had a few problems with fellow students. There was constant bullying every day.
“Being different from everyone else was hard, unable to make friends as I couldn't look them in the eye and not being able to understand or see their body language, made other kids not want me to join their games or their circle of friends.”
Charlie is a high achiever, being predicted A’s and A*s for his GCSE exams and is happy with his current progress. “School and education means everything to me, I really enjoy lessons and I want to reach my goals. I particularly enjoy Psychology and Maths so I am not going to let bullies hold me back.”
This level of determination and hard-work proved to pay off when a rare opportunity to travel to Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands on a four week long journey presented itself. Charlie’s school were asked by The JoLt Trust (Journey of a Lifetime) to nominate one disabled child to be in with the chance of embarking on this trip.
Charlie was tasked with writing about himself and explaining why he should be rewarded with this Journey of a Lifetime. If he passed this stage, Charlie would then have to complete a face-to-face interview in London.
“I was really pleased to know that the school nominated me, it was a great honour and I can’t thank them enough for that.”
Charlie believes it was his voluntary work that led to his nomination: “I do a lot of voluntary work outside of school for my local blind society, helping younger children at various events and supporting them if they need it. I also help with some of the younger kids at my school.
"This has been a great achievement for me as I enjoy supporting and helping younger children to gain confidence within themselves."
In his letter entitled “My Life”, Charlie opened up about the problems and exclusions he has faced in school growing up with sight loss. As part of his entry, Charlie wrote a very moving poem:
“Why do people just stand and stare;
Why do some people seem so unaware?
The white cane I hold in my hand is a bit of a clue;
If you stand too far away I can’t see you;
I have a condition that reduces my vision;
I can’t even see my own television;
I struggle on although it’s hard;
And always have to be on my guard;
The worst thing is when people think its fine;
To kick my cane or even worse stand in my line;
Just to see if I will move out of the way;
It’s just silly and trivial child’s play;
I do not care for these trivial games;
Or when people just call me names;
It hurts when they do but I am strong;
And also determined to get along;
I cannot help the vision I have been given;
But believe me this i am fully driven;
To go out and enjoy my life;
And maybe one day even get a wife;
I have learned to be strong and confident;
By the one person whom I can complement;
Who has also struggled and overcome;
It is of course my wonderful mum!”
After submitting his letter and interviewing in person, out of the hundreds of nationwide entries, Charlie along with 17 others made the trip.
“I don’t know if I can put into words how I felt when I found out. I was unbelievably happy. It is such a great opportunity and I am so proud to be able to get on it.”
Charlie shares with us why he decided to talk and be so open about his experiences, “I want to be able to help as many people as possible.
“I know the struggles that other young people go through and how horrible some people can be in school, but I also know how you can turn negative experiences into positives. If I can help one person overcome a problem then I know I have done a great job.”
Even though he has never travelled, Charlie is confident that it will be a great learning curve. “The independence and the life skills I will learn are going to help me for the rest of my life.”
“I am looking forward to hopefully making 17 new friends. I want to make amazing memories that will last a lifetime, with friends that will last a lifetime.”
His ends with some advice to other young people in a similar situation: “The best advice I can give is to be as open as possible. Tell your teachers and parents if anything is going on. Be open if you think teachers aren’t helping, have honest communication. It is always better when you simply speak out.”