A Blind Cen­tre Vol­un­teer

Tak­ing on the role of deputy man­ager at a lo­cal club for the blind has given Diane Ab­bott a unique in­sight into vis­ual im­pair­ment.

The People's Friend Special - - CONTENTS -

For the last 20 years I have worked as a nanny for a fam­ily with two chil­dren and as they grew older, the de­mands on my time re­duced. This was when a friend per­suaded me to vol­un­teer at the Wat­ford So­cial Cen­tre for the Blind.

To be hon­est, I wasn’t too sure to be­gin with, but Su­san was very per­sua­sive so I de­cided to give it a go, agree­ing to help with the Wed­nes­day lunch club.

Nowa­days, I am the deputy man­ager of the Club and spend three days a week there. On a typ­i­cal day I am in early to open up and make sure the urn is on for tea and cof­fee, the hall is tidy and table­cloths are on the ta­ble. We al­ways have vol­un­teers on hand to help as the mem­bers ar­rive.

We make sure ev­ery­one is wel­comed and set­tled. We have a va­ri­ety of ac­tiv­i­ties in place in­clud­ing keep fit, com­puter classes, Braille classes, crafts, domi­noes, Scrabble (with a raised board) and lots of so­cial­is­ing.

Some­times peo­ple need a hand to fill in a form, read a let­ter, write a let­ter, that sort of thing and we can do that. I have had to learn Braille and I take a class to help those who want to learn it, too. I once stood blind­folded bal­anced on one leg. Try it – it’s not easy but it gives you an idea of what our mem­bers have to cope with.

On a Wed­nes­day we have a lunch club so we make sure the food is pre­pared in time. We stick to the tried and trusted favourites such as sausage and mash or shep­herd’s pie. And, of course, there is al­ways tea and cake.

Some­times we have a guest speaker or a choir or school chil­dren come round to visit. Other times the vol­un­teers will do a turn and en­ter­tain. It’s great when the mem­bers stand up and do a piece, too. And it is quite hum­bling when they have learned a new poem or song – not easy when you can’t see the words.

Ev­ery six weeks we have a chi­ropodist at­tend and vis­it­ing ther­a­pists of­fer­ing re­flex­ol­ogy, man­i­cures, eye­brow tidy­ing, hand mas­sage – lit­tle treats for some but es­sen­tial to other mem­bers.

Then, of course, we have to make sure that ev­ery­one gets home safely. We have less for­mal gath­er­ings on Mon­days and Fri­days and again tea and cake is avail­able.

We or­gan­ise out­ings through­out the year to places we can visit by bus that are easily ac­ces­si­ble and where we can get a nice lunch or af­ter­noon tea – gar­dens, Wind­sor, river cruises, bowl­ing, lo­cal golf clubs – they are all on the list.

We have a mix of peo­ple who have been blind from birth and mem­bers who have lost their sight later in life and it is great to see them mix­ing and the quiet ones com­ing out of their shells and re­lax­ing and hav­ing fun.

Of­ten peo­ple who lose their sight later on have prob­lems com­ing to terms with this and we do what we can to sup­port them.

In ad­di­tion to our usual club ac­tiv­i­ties, we or­gan­ise two hol­i­days a year to places like East­bourne. Some come on their own while oth­ers bring fam­ily, friends or car­ers.

We are not car­ers. I like to think we are en­ablers and one of the most im­por­tant things I have learned is to stand back and al­low in­de­pen­dence. We help our group fo­cus on what they can do, not what they can’t.

I have had some very happy times with my work here and, of course, there have been sad times, too. We all feel it when there is be­reave­ment or some­one is too ill to at­tend, but I have had a lot of laughs and made some great friend­ships over the years.

The Wat­ford So­cial Cen­tre

For The Blind, Cross Street, Wat­ford WD17 2QD. For more in­for­ma­tion tele­phone

07932 746181 or visit www.wat­ford­blind­cen­tre.org.

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