To commemorate the 3rd anniversary of the SocialEyes vision impaired group of Barking and Dagenham, Ray spoke to one of the members, Janet Payne about what her experience has been like since joining the group.
How did you find out about SocialEyes?
“I came across East London Vision at an event and they were promoting activities run by local societies. I signed up to receive information from them and that’s how I found out about SocialEyes. I joined the group back in 2015 when it was in its baby stages”
Could you tell me a bit about your role at SocialEyes?
“When I first joined SocialEyes, Bhavini was still running it. It wasn’t a big group so all the members would help out here and there. When Bhavini got a job at East London Vision they were looking for someone to take on some of the responsibility, and since I wasn’t working at the time I took the opportunity. However, I don’t lead it on my own – me and Bhavini work together. I find out information and contact people for the meetings and Bhavini contacts speakers and carries out risk assessments for activities, so it’s really a joint effort between me and Bhavini. I can’t take all the credit.”
Do you have any memorable moments in SocialEyes, like an outing or trip, or any members that are memorable?
“Ernie is a memorable character. He is an older gentleman with sight loss and hearing loss and he is just a real bundle of fun and a joker to the tea. For example, when we’re at the meetings and I ask him what he would like as a drink and he will say ‘can I have a gin and tonic’. He’s a real joker and he’s always up for having a go at things. One of the outings we did was go to the Queen’s Theatre in Hornchurch and that was really good fun because we had a behind the scenes look and a touch tour. They were showing some of the props, and there was a string of onions because one of the characters was French, and I was holding it when someone said ‘let’s take a picture’ so I ended up in the photo with the string of onions around my neck. It was really funny.”
What does SocialEyes mean to you and the members?
“To me it’s an opportunity to meet new people and get involved in new things I might not do otherwise, and for the members it’s one of the few things they do socially. Information is good, but for a lot of people it’s the social interaction that they benefit from because a lot of it is getting to know other people, how they manage their sight loss and also building up friendships. That’s the main thing.”
Written by Janet Payne and Ray Calamaan