For many blind people it can be a daunting prospect getting out to socialise, the logistics of public transport or taxis can prove difficult or prohibitively expensive leading many to retreat into their own homes with an increased sense of isolation.
The volunteer drivers of the Dorset Blind Association play a vital role in allowing blind or visually impaired people the freedom to attend social clubs and other activities throughout the area.
For 90-year-old Iris Harmer the voluntary work of driver Gill Brown gives her the ability to socialise at the Dorset Blind Association’s Poole Social Club and build relationships within a vibrant and supportive group.
“After I lost my husband I lived alone in Norwich for 15 years but I couldn’t cope any longer so I moved to Poole with my daughter and son-in-law but I don’t want to disrupt their lives. I’m totally blind – I don’t see daylight or shapes so without volunteer drivers like Gill I would have to use taxis to get out.”
Volunteer driver, Gill Brown has been helping out for nearly two years and has very personal reasons for her support of the charity.
“I woke up one morning having had an eye palsy stroke which left me blind, so I was totally blind instantly. Through social services I was introduced to the Dorset Blind Association’s Lighthouse Group for working age people with sight loss who offered me support and help. Over a period of 18 months my sight started coming back gradually until I got back to where I am today with 20/20 version.
“I’m one of the lucky ones, I know where these people have come from, I know how they feel and it’s given me an appreciation of what they’re going through because I’ve been there. I don’t know how long my eyesight will last so I’m giving back to them while I can.
“Driving for people helps to get them out of the house and socialise, otherwise they’d be stuck in doing nothing. It costs an awful lot of money using taxis which they can ill afford so by doing something voluntary and getting them out it saves the Dorset Blind Association an awful lot of money enabling them to put on more activities with their funds.
“I’ve made some great friends doing this, we have a giggle and sing songs in the car. It’s a minimal time commitment, about an hour or so, it can be done around your own time and it’s all short journeys so it’s easy.”
The Dorset Blind Association desperately needs more volunteer drivers like Gill. If you think you can spare just a little of your time to help in this way, or are interested in any of the other volunteering opportunities they have, please contact Jo or Dave on 01202 712869 or email firstname.lastname@example.org