Some of us reach our ambitions, others don’t and some people have no idea which path to take but are looking for fulfilment. As I wandered along my path looking at various side tracks I knew I wanted something that satisfied my need, as well as being of benefit to others.
I had worked in various professions, but I hadn’t found the one thing that set my soul on fire. Then a miracle happened which gave me hope, I stumbled across an organisation called East London Vision looking for volunteers. No matter how young or old you were you could help someone. Skilled, unskilled you were offered training and there were a wide variety of causes to choose from.
As I have a disability that worries me, which is my failing eyesight, I was scared about how I would cope, but I feared even more the thought of becoming useless. So I decided to apply as a volunteer without hesitation because I wanted to learn about life with no vision and to enhance my skills. I had stereotyped visually impaired people as lifeless like vegetables, unable to do anything or move around, and wondered if I might get bored helping them. I remember my first invitation to an event which was an awards evening. I thought it was going to be a very formal affair and boring, but surprisingly it wasn’t! I saw blind and visually impaired people in a different perspective. There was entertainment and to my amazement people were dancing and having fun. They were enjoying life with a little bit of support.
Being new to volunteering with other vision impaired people, the users were more than understanding. Sometimes I would make a mistake, but they were very supportive of me, and it made me feel valuable to them. The best thing about helping other VI people is they’re all different and know how they want to be supported. I had discovered so much about the users and have enjoyed many activities from coffee mornings, outings and even sport!
There are no barriers to becoming a volunteer as you’re given the skills to fulfil the role that’s needed. The age range varies, but we all enjoy getting together, and the advantage is the older people teach the younger ones and the younger ones teach the older ones.
Before volunteering, I was feeling like my social life was to an end, but with the encouragement of the people I met, users and staff, to become more active in activities, I am feeling the benefits of belonging to ELVis. I have been given a new lease of life which I love and I have learnt so much.
Written by Christine Maker, Volunteer for East London Vision