Samivaya JD Shares His Story to Empower Others
Samivaya JD is the human and story behind his self-titled YouTube channel, which offers a glimpse into the many unique aspects of his life. His personable videos offer a window into not just one, but many minority labels, including the culture and lifestyles that come with them. But what are they, exactly? And who is he? Read on to discover a glimpse of this young man’s story.
Justin Holland: A Blind Guy with a Vision
Justin Holland, “drastic” was an understatement. In 2016, just as preparing to go to college to study engineering, something unexpected happened. He began to notice a spot in his eyesight that within two months would leave him legally blind.
A Lifechanging DiagnosisAfter months without answers, Justin discovered he had a rare genetic disease called Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy, or LHON. This degenerative disease is irreversible, robbing him of his sight and leaving him with only light perception to guide him. “It happened so fast,” Justin admitted. “It was really weird. Even the doctor didn’t believe it.” Yet the reality was coming on fast, as his vision faded at a rapid rate. So quickly, in fact, that it was hard for him to grasp what was happening. “You could say I was being positive, but now, looking back on it, it was me denying what was happening,” Justin explained. “I didn’t know for sure it was going to keep getting worse, but I didn’t want to accept that it was. I even went and got new glasses to see if it would do anything, and, of course, it didn’t.” Suddenly the future of going to college and becoming an engineer slid to the backburner. Instead, he stayed home with his parents as he fought to adapt to life without sight. He had to relearn everything, from how to navigate inside and out of his home to how to do everyday tasks like pick out clothes, get dressed, and prepare food. “Dealing with the situation, it was difficult, and the shock of it is what hit me the most,” Justin said. “I tried to stay as busy as possible and that’s what helped me. Staying busy, going to the gym, and having my family.” That family became his cornerstone, supporting him as he began to reorient himself with the world through assistive technology, a guide dog, a support cane, and the unyielding encouragement of his family and fiancé. “Being able to hang out at home and get a ride to the gym and get a ride to work, it was really awesome to have my family there,” he explained. “My mom was and still is a really big help in contacting people with services that I needed.” As difficult as his diagnosis was, Justin didn’t let it be an anchor on his life. Instead, he chose to keep moving forward.
Justin Sets His Sights on Bodybuilding and YouTubeAs Justin began finding ways to still be active and embrace life despite his new disability, he wanted a platform where he could share his journey. Familiar with filming, he turned to YouTube. After seeing what others like him were doing online, he found himself considering a different angle on the “blind life documentary” genre. “When I started going blind, I was still watching YouTube and I found Tommy Edison and a handful of other YouTubers, but none of them are really doing the fitness thing,” Justin said. Justin’s passion for fitness has been going strong since he was fourteen, and he wasn’t about to let LHON stop him from keeping that outlet. In fact, he even competed in a bodybuilding competition after his disability set in. “I’m a blind guy with a vision to show people that even though I’m blind, I’m still going to do the things I love,” he said. “I find a way to work around the blindness and go on adventures. A lot of the things I enjoy are active.” You’ll find many videos on Justin’s YouTube channel demonstrating his zeal for strength training, physical activity, and the great outdoors.
Life Without Sight Can Still Have a Clear VisionThis isn’t to say that Justin hasn’t seen his share of struggles. Since LHON began to impact his life 2 years ago, there have still been many moments where he had to face the reality of this huge life change. At times, it was really difficult as he felt the pain of his loss and the frustration of his limitations. But at the end of the day, he chooses not to be paralyzed by them. Rather, he perseveres and embraces the things he can do. “I was always constantly trying to become stronger and become better,” he said. “That, for me, is what it’s all about. The hardest part was the mental battle. It’s a challenge like no other but challenging myself is what I’m all about and fitness really does it for me.” As for those who may be able to relate to his story, Justin has a word of advice. “Find something you enjoy doing that keeps you busy,” he said. “There’s all kinds of things that blind people can do. No matter what the disability is, you can still find things to do and live life.” « PreviousNext »
Balena Productions Returns for Annual Charity Stream
Dreamscape Foundation. As a non-profit, charity and giving sit at our core and no season embraces this nature better than Christmas. It’s a passion many people share with us, including our old friend Steven Page of Balena Productions.
What is Balena Productions?There are many YouTube channels, but at more than 10 years producing content, Balena Productions is one of the veterans. “I basically make animations on YouTube,” Steve said. “Specifically around Sonic the Hedgehog. I’ve been doing it for many, many years, and I hope to be doing it for many more. I love everything I do.” It isn’t a hobby, either. This is Steven’s full-time job. It has to be with the time it takes to produce quality animations to go with his witty voiceover work. While the latter is his true passion, the two skills go hand-in-hand. “That’s what I truly aspire to be is a full-time voice actor,” he said. “I had started off by using static screenshots and adding the voiceover afterward, but as my channel grew into this Titan that it’s become, I had to make my content better for my viewers. If you take a look at the beginning of my channel to the newer things on my channel, you’ll see there’s a huge evolution. I was never trained, I didn’t go to college or anything like that. I just sort of picked up along the way.”
The Christmas with Sonic SeriesThrough the years, Balena Productions formed a tradition called the Christmas with Sonic series. What began with one video triggered a desire for more from the fans who now look forward to these videos every year. “Christmas is that special time of year, of course, full of fun and wonder,” Steven said, “but Christmas is Sonic’s main root was that we wanted to make relatable Christmas videos for everyone. It couldn’t just be just Sonic the Hedgehog running around for Christmas. We wanted to hit that special place of awkward, uncomfortable Christmases for people, but at the same time having them be the best Christmases as well.”
A Smashing Charity Stream Just in Time for the HolidaysChristmas with Sonic isn’t the only tradition. Balena Productions also does an annual charity stream with Dreamscape Foundation in support of our cause. “Joe Sehwani, the wonderful guy he is, came to me a couple of years ago, and he said, ‘Oh, I love your videos. We have this charity and we would love to do something’,” Steven explained. “I had been waiting for a charity to come along. I love giving back, especially when Joe’s message is about helping the families with these kids with rare disabilities and diseases. I think it’s a really good cause to help these parents around Christmas. It costs so much just to stay alive these days and for Joe and the Dreamscape Foundation to want to help these parents, that’s really great.” This year’s stream is taking place over the course of two evenings: one on December 7 and the other on December 8. The streams will take place on the Balena Productions YouTube channel at 8pm EST or 5pm PST. During that time, viewers can participate as they go to battle on Super Smash Brothers Ultimate and donate to the cause through Dreamscape Foundation’s campaign on their website. There are 4 bundles to choose from, with special rewards depending on your donation tier:
- $10: Receive a Dreamscape Foundation T-Shirt
- $30: Receive a Dreamscape Foundation T-Shirt and a chance to win a PC copy of Sonic Forces
- $50: Receive a Dreamscape Foundation T-Shirt, a Hooba Dooba T-Shirt, and a chance to win a copy of Super Smash Brothers Ultimate
- $100: Receive a Dreamscape Foundation T-Shirt, a Hooba Dooba T-Shirt, a copy of Sonic Forces on PC, a chance to win Super Smash Brothers Ultimate for Switch, and a chance to win an Alexa Echo Dot with smart plug