Some of our volunteers share their experiences of volunteering with Thomas Pocklington Trust.
Bhavini began as a volunteer at Moorfields Eye Hospital for Pocklington in January, and works with a variety of organisations in the sight-loss sector – volunteering with the RNIB and RP Fighting Blindness, as well as her own social group ‘Socialeyes’. She herself is affected by visual impairment, having been diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa in 1997.
In her role at Moorfields Bhavini speaks with the patients while they wait, and highlights different services and support that is available, as well as offering the option of a private chat. Often people are unaware she has a visual impairment at all – when Bhavini drops it into the conversation it has an instant positive reaction as they realise she is not just passing on information, but personally understands the journey that they are on.
Bhavini loves the satisfaction she gets from giving people valuable information, as well as keeping up to date with local community services, and engaging with patients. There is a strong sense of comradery at Moorfields where she is treated like part of the team.
She says of her ongoing experience: “I have always wanted to be able to do something to help VI people and offer support by passing on information about the different services on offer. When I was diagnosed I was given no advice or support which was terrifying. I waited nearly 14 years before receiving support from a rehab worker which became available to me when I moved to a new London borough”.
After being put in touch with RP Fighting Blindness Bhavini was able to find out about the services that were open to her, and hopes she can help others in the same way: “I wanted to help people who may be going through the same thing as me, by giving them the emotional and practical support that I didn’t get when they need it.”
Hazel, 21, began volunteering at Pocklington Place, in Northfield, Birmingham, in April 2010. At the time, she was also a student at Queen Alexandra College in Harborne, Birmingham, which specialises in providing support to young people with visual impairment and other disabilities. Hazel was initially quite nervous about volunteering and interacting with service users.
While volunteering, Hazel assisted with art and craft workshops at the Centre, supporting older visually impaired people to access and participate in a range of activities. The workshops included painting, pottery, stencilling, printing, drawing and sculpture. Hazel delivered workshops on a weekly basis along with two other students, and was supported by a worker from the college. The service users regularly attended the workshops, developing their skills and experiencing new styles of art and craft. They thoroughly enjoyed working with Hazel.
During the course of her volunteering, Hazel’s confidence and self esteem grew. She felt her communication skills improved, and she was able to encourage individuals to participate fully in the workshops. She is now motivated and eager to continue studying art and design.
She said of her experience: “I really liked the people, they were all really nice. I enjoyed delivering the art workshops and developing my existing skills”.
Lena has been a staff member and also volunteered for Pocklington for 18 months. It was through working with us that she found out about volunteering opportunities with Pocklington and how volunteering could make a huge difference to the lives of service users. As a volunteer, Lena helps with a range of different activities for people of all ages which provide the residents and users of the Centre with opportunities for outings or events – things to look forward to and an opportunity for different experiences, a chance to chat and interact with other people and have a bit of fun.
Lena works at Pocklington Rise most days and comes in to help with activities in and around her working hours, and is someone most people are already familiar with. She makes sure that everyone knows the details of up-and-coming events, so anybody can join in.
Lena’s work commitments mean that she isn’t always available to help. She finds that communication with other volunteers is always important to make sure somebody else can be available.
Lena enjoys getting feedback from residents and users, and this is taken into consideration to ensure everyone involved has fun and that there is something on offer to please everyone.
“I love my job so much I wanted to do more. Spending time with people having fun is a really unique feeling and is a way of enjoying myself too”.
Julie has been a volunteer in the shop at Pocklington Place for two years. It was through looking for services for her son, who has been blind since birth, that she found out about volunteering opportunities with Pocklington.The shop at the Centre aims to provide basic items for residents, but it also offers the residents and users of the Centre the opportunity to chat and interact with volunteers.
Julie volunteers in the shop regularly on Friday mornings for a couple of hours. The time and work given by volunteers have enabled the shop to be open more regularly and it’s now accessed by more residents and service users, helping to increase people’s independence.
Julie has found that good communication and flexibility with other volunteers and staff at the Centre is important to ensure that the shop is open at designated times.
“I really enjoy coming to the Centre and talking to the residents, it’s quite special. Sometimes people come in and they just want to talk to somebody. We all get on well and enjoy a good laugh”.