The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is marking Volunteers Week (June 1 – 7) by celebrating the magnificent work its hundreds of volunteers do supporting people with sight loss.
During 2021 and 2022, an amazing 3,300 volunteers supported RNIB, with 996 of them having sight loss.
In the past year, volunteers have collected more than £300,000 in donations from RNIB Sooty boxes, supported 1,222 people through 144 weekly Talk & Support groups and have tested the accessibility of 63 ATM's across the UK.
Whether they are recording material for braille transcription requests, supporting essential admin functions, offering vital counselling or making a difference in their local communities through RNIB’s Community Connection groups, volunteers make a huge impact.
People like Jonathan Abro, 57, from London, who started volunteering for RNIB five years ago after his own sight had deteriorated due to Retinitis Pigmentosa.
He quickly learned how to use voiceover for iPhones and iPads and began volunteering as a tech support officer, helping others with sight loss to do the same.
Jonathan also volunteers testing products for accessibility including the system of raised dots on bank notes, braille on bleach bottles and trying out new apps.
Charlene Kerr-Spencer (pictured above), who has Coats disease and Keratoconus, also found a new direction in life volunteering with RNIB.
She was born blind in her right eye, but in 2015, the sight in her left eye deteriorated to the point where she’s registered severely sight impaired. This caused the NHS to terminate Charlene’s contact as a nurse.
“My job as a nurse was terminated in 2017, when it was said that I was incapable of working. They tried to put me in a different position, but the support was lacking so then they terminated my contract.
“There's nothing worse than having a career for 13 years, being 35 years old and being told ‘this is it’. What do you do in that position? So just having that opportunity to put your time into something else - the more I did that, the more I found a new way of living.”
Charlene, from Birmigham, attended a Living Well with Sight Loss course with RNIB and soon started helping run the courses. Then she applied for a job as Living Well with Sight Loss coordinator and got it in 2018.
“People volunteering their time with RNIB provide an incredible impact on people’s lives,” said RNIB CEO Matt Stringer.
“From opening up access to technology or raising vital funds, through to helping to build connections and confidence, this impact is far reaching, especially for people who may feel isolated by changes to their sight.”
To find out more about volunteering with RNIB, visit www.rnib.org.uk/get-involved/volunteer