Rik and Louise's story
Family means the world to Rik, they've supported him all his life but now he's ready to step out into the world and make new experiences. Read how he did just that with help from his sighted guide Louise.
“Family is everything,” says Rik Jones, 29, a talented musician from Wigan, “but you need a space of your own in the world too.”
Rik is very close with his family, they see each other every day. He lives with his mum and dad, his grandad lives on the next road and his auntie and cousins live down the street.
This support network was crucial for his parents, and Rik, when he was growing up. Rik was born premature at just 26 weeks, and his early arrival shook the family’s world. Fred, Rik’s grandad, explains: “It was a massive shock and a scary time that we’ll never forget. My daughter, Jayne, and Rik’s dad, Chris, drove down the motorway every day for eight months while he was in hospital in Manchester. We didn’t think he would survive, but he fought like mad.”
Rik was born with retinopathy of prematurity, a sight condition prevalent in babies born before 32 weeks. “Some of the other babies I was on the ward with didn’t make it. I’m really lucky to be here,” says Rik.
Rik describes his vision as like looking through a misty window. But, in the last year, his sight has started to deteriorate due to cataracts. “I worry about losing my remaining sight, but I don’t dwell on it. I like to live in the moment and my music is my focus."
Rik’s taste in music was influenced from an early age by his dad, a huge Paul Weller fan. His beloved grandma bought him his first guitar when he was just three years old. “Growing up, there was always music in the house. Every toy they bought me made a noise,” says Rik.
While Rik is a busy, gigging musician at weekends, he was also spending a lot of time at home in his studio. “I love making music, editing and writing new songs. But I also want new experiences, and I don’t want to rely on family to get out.”
Rik heard about the My Sighted Guide service from an advert on Facebook. “I mentioned it to my mum and we thought – go for it! I was told that a volunteer guide called Louise had been found who could meet with me one evening a week. I didn’t know what to expect.”
From the first day Rik and Louise met they hit it off. They share a similar sense of humour and Rik bounces off Louise’s confidence during their weekly meetings. They visit different places each time, such as coffee shops, parks and shopping centres.
“I’ve volunteered with Guide Dogs for a number of years with the puppies, but I wanted to help a person too,” says Louise Johnston, 45. “I really enjoy spending time with Rik each week and it’s wonderful to see his confidence grow as we visit new places. I helped him buy and wrap presents for his family at Christmas, which is something he’s never done before.”
Fred says: “As a family we can’t speak highly enough of Louise. We’ve seen so much change in Rik since they’ve been matched. It’s brought so much joy to him and his mum and dad, it’s brought a lot of trust and confidence back in his life. It’s lovely to see.”