When my sight deteriorated at the age of twenty three I really didn’t know what to do with myself anymore. I was a Nursery Nurse and I had been since leaving school. That was all I had ever known work wise. I had been wanting a change for a while, so in a way this had come at the right time. But now I had the added complication of what can I do? It wasn’t about what I wanted anymore, it was about what I was physically able to do. I knew that there would be something out there that I could do, but I hadn’t got a clue what it was. My confidence had just gone completely and I needed help with so much. How was I supposed to do any kind of job when I couldn’t even do every day tasks properly.
Because of my sight impairment I was a client of The Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind. I didn’t actually visit the centre, but I had plenty of support from my Community Advice Officer. When I spoke to her I felt normal again, like having bad sight was just a part of everybody’s life and that I was no different to anybody else. I guess it’s because she worked with visually impaired people all day every day. It was normal to her. And that’s how it should be. I shouldn’t be made to feel any different because my sight isn’t as good. It’s not like it’s my fault. Why do we call it good and bad sight anyway? Everybody is just different at their own level. My level will seem awful to one person and a blessing to another. So why do we use the word bad?
After a few years of self torture I had finally started to come to terms with the fact that this was my life now. There was no going back. I realised that I needed to find something to fill my time. I wasn’t doing that much and I didn’t have anything to focus on other than the past. So my mind was forever going round in circles. I needed something new and exciting to do. I thought that if I am ever going to get anywhere, I need to be around people who understand my feelings, in a place that understands my needs. I needed to be at SRSB. The opportunity came along for me to volunteer for them and work on their blog. I had never done anything like that before, but I decided to give it a go. I didn’t realise at the time, but that was the start of something wonderful. I have learnt so much while I have been volunteering. I have more knowledge of different eye conditions and the experiences that people have had. I know what a blog actually is now and how it works! I even have my own blog now, don’t know whether you have noticed… 😀 I have learnt that a good office runs on cake and coffee. I have also learnt that I’m not alone. And that I was never alone with how badly I felt about my sight loss. So many other people felt like I did, I just hadn’t met them yet.
volunteering has also given me the opportunity to do things that I really didn’t expect. I have met two Lord Mayors which made me feel really special. I was invited to an inauguration by the Lord Mayor of Sheffield at the time, Anne Murphy as she came to the end of her year as Lord Mayor. I really apologise if my wording is all wrong, I really don’t know much about politics. But at the beginning of the inauguration as the speaker said “Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, then some more names which I can’t quite remember, and Distinguished Guests. I was thinking wow! Am I a distinguished guest? I’m not any of those other titles. Which am I? Do I even come into it? I’m still not really sure so we’ll stick with deistinguished guest. I’m happy with that. 😀 It felt such an honour to be in that environment with all of those people. It’s definitely not the kind of environment that I’m used to, I felt a little bit like Jack on the Titanic film. From a whole different world, but was trying my best to fit in and make myself look good. Shaking hands with people, being introduced to people, all very formal but I loved it! To be introduced to those high powered, important people made me feel like I was important. At that moment in time I was one of the three people representing one of Sheffield’s oldest charities. I had a job to do, and it meant a great deal that I was one of the few people asked to do it.
Volunteering has also given me the opportunity to be on the radio, four times now I think. And on the TV! I never thought I would have the confidence to do either of those things. I felt so nervous just before I did these things, but I sounded a lot better than I thought I would. And I just can’t get enough of it. I want to do more! Again it’s one of those things that not everybody gets to do, so I wanted to give it a go. I didn’t want to turn it down and end up regretting it. Now if ever I hear of somebody from the radio coming to SRSB , I’m there! Just in case I’m needed. 🙂
Last year I also got the chance to drive a car! I took part in a driving challenge to raise money for SRSB. Quite a few of us took part. A driving instructor was sat in the car with me and I had to drive around a track two times. The second lap was timed. The people taking part who had good sight had to be blindfolded for the second lap, but the people who were visually impaired had the choice of whether to use the blindfold or not. I chose not to because my sight isn’t great anyway and I wanted to make the most of my first time driving a car. It came really natural to me which I was really surprised about. It’s a shame I can’t drive in real life. I don’t know that I would want the responsibility of it though to be honest. But I did love doing the challenge and I really hope to drive again one day.
Volunteering has definitely changed my life. It has helped me to discover who I am and where my skills lie. It has helped me to build a new life for myself. I would definitely recommend it for anybody who is wanting to learn new skills, mix with new people and find something to focus on. It is definitely a good way to pass the time.
xx ❤ xx