Daria Neklesa reports on how volunteering can become a win-win situation meeting selfless volunteers from Galloway’s
"It's invaluable" ... that is the verdict of Lancashire sight loss charity Galloway’s on the crucial work done by its kind hearted volunteers
Each year, hundreds of their volunteers donate around 20,000 hours to help Galloway’s support people living with sight loss.
There is never a dull moment, with people undertaking roles as varied as escorting walks to the Three Peaks, holding accessible cookery or art classes.
Whatever role they undertake, there is no doubting their generosity and goodwill. But for many, the reasons behind why they volunteer are deeply personal.
For student teacher Jack Kenley-Wright, volunteering for Galloway’s gave him the opportunity to give something back to a charity which had helped his father through difficult times.
The busy 34-year-old, volunteered for five years while completing his history and teaching degrees. And although his schedule is hectic, he says his experience has been hugely rewarding.
He said: “I got involved with the charity after hearing one of their staff give an amazing overview of what the charity does for those with visual impairments. My father had recently had another stroke that had left him blind in one eye and severely restricted the vision in his other eye.
“People forget that your sight can mean so much; confidence, independence, freedom, autonomy, but it also covers the little things that we take for granted, like; shopping, making a brew, or choosing the soup you want for your lunch.
“Watching my father become terrified, not being able to see anything coming and finding it hard to navigate around people who assume he can see, was hard.
“Once I began volunteering, I learnt that sight loss is not the end of a person’s autonomy, but it is the beginning of a new chapter in that person’s life.
“The staff are wondrous in their ability to change peoples’ views of themselves and getting them back to their new version of normal.
“I volunteer in lots of difference ways. This could be marshalling at a race (I’m the guy you can hear yelling encouragement at the flagging runners for hours on end), bag-packing at various stores and introducing people to the works and values of Galloway’s or helping at fayres and manning stalls.”
Tracey Shaw, from Morecambe, has volunteered at Galloway’s Brew Me Sunshine café for over two years. The 49-year-old, who also cares for her disabled husband, says that volunteering has given her confidence and a great new set of friends.
She said: “I first heard about Galloway’s after my mother in law was diagnosed with Macular Degeneration. You just don’t realise until you go out with a person who is partially sighted just how impatient people can be. We would go to the shop and she would be struggling to see what coins she had in her hand and people around would just get so impatient.
“I saw an advert calling for volunteers and thought why not’ and decided to give it a go. I’m so glad I did I just love it there. It has been brilliant for my confidence. It’s really brought me out of my shell. I don’t see it as work, it’s just like going to see friends. I think it’s important to contribute to society and your local community. I’m just glad to be able to do something good.”
Leo McNicholas is a Deacon at St Oswald’s Catholic Church in Longton. For the past 27 years Leo has dedicated large amounts of his time volunteering for Galloway’s Talking News Service. The 83-year-old uses his knowledge of the Bible to read from Bible Alive. He also composes short talks to read aloud for the publication Catholic Voice. The grandfather of seven says that he enjoys helping others to hear texts that they would otherwise struggle to access.
He said: “I like the fact that my work helps people who are living with sight loss stay in touch with what’s going on. It’s important that blind and partially sighted people can access information that keeps them a part of our community.
“I get lots of lovely feedback. I have even had people who listen to the programme and who recognised my voice, stop me while I was volunteering for Dial-a-Bus and ask me if I’m Leo.
“I have made some good friends at Galloway’s and it’s so nice to be part of that community. It’s certainly an experience I would recommend to everybody. “
CEO of Galloway’s, Stuart Clayton, expressed his gratitude to all of Galloway’s volunteers.
He said: “The support we receive is testimony to the generosity of the people in our local communities. Galloway’s simply would not be able to provide the extent of support we provide without our volunteers. We are so very grateful to every single person that comes forward to help. We would not be the organisation we are without them.
“Our volunteers and their diverse experience and skill sets continue to help Galloway’s to grow into a vibrant community. One that offers a real support network to people living with sight loss.”
For more information on how to volunteer for Galloway’s see www.galloways.org.uk/volunteer