Chiefs at a sight loss charity have thanked their volunteers who have ‘continued to provide support to blind and visually impaired people across Lancashire and Sefton’ during the pandemic.
Sight loss charity Galloway’s revealed that their volunteers have been rallying around the community even while face-to-face activity has temporarily been suspended.
Former Southport high school teacher Alison Spencer has been a volunteer for eight years and has encouraged her three granddaughters, Isabel, nine, Olivia, 14, and Rebecca, 16, to help out.
The 74-year-old provides support at the social group in Penwortham and during lockdown, she has been ensuring members of the group do not feel isolated by regularly phoning them for a chat.
She says: “I love my Tuesday social group and chatting with people. In some cases, it can be the only chance they get to speak to someone all week. I would make people brews and sort lunches out. I also ran a discussion in the afternoon, where people could voice their opinion on topics in the news. But at the moment, following lockdown, things have had to change. I ring around seven or eight people each week and they also ring me. We just have a chat and pass useful information on.
“For many of these people, they are sitting in a flat on their own. They shut the door and that is it. It feels so important, now more than ever, to open that door for them, by providing these calls.
“I also take part in the weekly group teleconferencing call, Talking Together, which is brilliant. It brings together everyone who would have gone to the social groups.
“I love the social side of volunteering. Before lockdown, I brought my three granddaughters, and they would give the members cups of tea and biscuits. Rebecca once had a one-to-one session with someone to help them use their iPad and she was thrilled to be able to help.
“The social group has even helped my youngest granddaughter grow her confidence as she wouldn’t speak to anyone at first, but now she won’t stop talking.
“The girls have also provided support at the Galloway’s Santa’s Grotto for the past few years, by helping with the gift wrapping.”
Alison, who taught at Meols Cop High School in Southport, helps out with other tasks, such as stuffing envelopes, and has enjoyed many outings. These have included a holiday in Portugal, as well as residentials to Coniston Water Park, Whitby and Llandudno. But she says her favourite activity is the annual Morecambe Bay Walk fundraiser, which this year has been postponed following the Coronavirus crisis.
Over the years, the mother-of-two has reduced her volunteering to take care of her husband, Austin, 83, who has dementia, but she says her friends at Galloway’s provide as much support to her as she does for them.
She reveals: “They know what is going on at home and they support me. “They are my friends and I would like to think they count me as their friend.”
Alison, who lives in Lancashire, has a good understanding of what it is like to lose some vision, as she was diagnosed with a detached retina eight years ago. She added: “I do have eye problems, but when you listen to others, it is not that bad at all.
“Around eight years ago, I had booked to go on cruise to the Arctic, but instead I had to go to Manchester Eye Hospital as I had a bleed behind my eye. I had a detached retina, which came off seven times. I had to have laser treatment. It was not a good time. The sight in that eye is reasonable now – I learnt to adapt. No-one had told me about Galloway’s at the time, but now I make sure I tell people about its services and promote it wherever I can.”
Galloway’s has more than 200 volunteers, many of whom are blind or partially sighted themselves. Together they contribute more than 20,000 hours to the charity each year. During Volunteers’ Week, the charity wants to say a great big thank you. If anyone wishes to become a volunteer, register via https://www.galloways.org.uk/emergency-volunteers and a member of the Galloway’s team will then be back in touch with any opportunities available.
Galloway’s, which has sites in Penwortham, Chorley, Southport and Morecambe, supports more than 7,000 blind and partially sighted people across Sefton and Lancashire.