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Volunteering with visually impaired people

19 August 2011

For many people in our community sight loss is a daily reality. Rathfriland woman Madeline Maginn lost her sight at the age of 21 through Diabetic Retinopathy and Glaucoma and tells her story.

 Volunteering … with visually impaired people

For many people in our community sight loss is a daily reality. Rathfrilandwoman Madeline Maginn lost her sight at the age of 21 through Diabetic Retinopathy and Glaucoma and tells her story.

“At first I felt like my life as I had known it was over. I could not work out how I would be able to do all the things which up until then like everyone else I had taken for granted. Simple things like going to the shop or church or going to meet friends. But thank goodness I was blessed with a fantastic family and an amazing group of friends.

“Unfortunately,noteveryonewith sight loss or other sensory deprivation isas fortunate as I have been. Many are stuck at home unable to live their lives to their full potential or even to do basic activities such as getting to the shops.

“You may be thinking, what can I do about this? Well, the simple answer is, a lot! Have you ever stopped to think what you would do if you were to lose your sight? Or even just close your eyes and try to imagine how you would manage to get about even in somewhere you know really well such as your own home if you lost your sight.”

Madeline says she and the visually impaired people she knows are not looking for people to wait on them hand and foot, but that they often need a little help and guidance to enable them to get around safely, so they can live their lives and play a part in society like everyone else.

“Visually impaired people are ordinary people who have,unfortunately,lost their sight. I am very fortunate to have a close family, a wide circle of friends and a loving partner who rally round to help me whenever I need help. But not everyone is as fortunate as I am. I would like to appeal to everyone who is reading this to consider giving up half an hour or an hour of theirtime to help someone get to the shops, go for a walk around town or even to call in for a chat with someone who does not get out as easily as you can.

“Are you unfortunate enough to be unemployed at the moment? Why not consider volunteering? Apart from helping someone less fortunate than yourself there are many benefits to becoming a volunteer. Not least of which is a boost to your self esteem which comes from the knowledge that you are doing something useful which helps others.”

James Todd, Senior Social Work Practitioner for Visual Impairment at the Southern Trust, adds, “Volunteering to support individuals, or groups of people, who have a severe visual impairment is an excellent way of assisting other people to continue to play an active role in the community. The experience gained by the volunteer can be rewarding in so many ways, for example developing interpersonal skills while at the same time doing something which benefits others. Many of the groups supported by the Trust would not be viable without the dedicated volunteers who continue developing their own skills and expertise while helping others. Volunteering could involve shopping, assisting with exercise or a pastime or some other type of activity during the day, in the evenings or at weekends.”

If you think that you might be interested in becoming a volunteer to someone with a visual impairment, contact Gerardette McVeigh, Volunteer Co-ordinator at the Southern Health and Social Care Trust for the Armagh, Dungannon, Craigavon andBanbridgeareas, email: gerardette.mcveigh@southerntrust.hscni.net or telephone 028 3831 1484,orMadaleine McCrink,Volunteer Co-ordinator for Newry andMourneandAcuteServices,email:madaleine.mccrink@southerntrust.hscni.netor telephone 028 3083 4270.

Ends

For further information contact Lisa Cartmil,

Email: lisa.cartmill@southerntrust.hscni.net

Communications Manager, on (028) 3861 2579

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