Shop RNIB Donate now

"Volunteering has done wonders for me" Burak tells us about his volunteering experiences

Burak, age 43 (as of February 2024), was diagnosed with Glaucoma aged two years old. He has lived with deteriorating vision since, resulting in challenges finding employment and him feeling aimless. Burak volunteers for RNIB’s Technology for Life team and is a member of the Volunteer Advisory Council. He credits volunteering with giving him a purpose and a sense of pride at the end of each day.

The Technology for Life team helps blind and partially sighted people with assistive technology.

“My vision became particularly poor around age 32. I didn’t know about the services that RNIB offered, and it didn’t cross my mind to call them and ask for help. So, it was a big challenge to overcome on my own and it impacted my employment opportunities. Coming from a broken home I also experienced a lot of personal problems as a teenager, which meant I acted out and didn’t put in as much effort at school as I could have. Thankfully, one of my teachers foresaw the future when I couldn’t and pushed me to learn to touch type when I still had most of my sight. This meant that I now know where all the keys are even if I can’t see them and was able to use JAWS when my sight began to deteriorate. I had been a music technician in college, so by this time, I had more knowledge of technology than the average person, and it became my niche. Although technology changes rapidly and it can be difficult to keep up with, particularly as a blind person, I persevered. Then I decided it was time to use my skill to help others in a similar position.

I have two kids, and a turning point for me was one morning when my son turned and said to me, ‘I’m going to school, what are you doing?’. I started looking into employment, but there weren’t many roles available with my level of certification, so I looked at the voluntary route. When I learned that I could help people as well as open up my own career path, it was really appealing, so I applied for a volunteer role with Living Well With Sight Loss (LWWSL).”

Volunteering journey

“Volunteering with LWWSL meant I received a lot of training, which was good, but I realised that I wasn’t a particularly confident motivator. And then a volunteer role opened up with the Technology for Life team, which was more my field, and an area that I felt confident in. I’ve been in this role now for almost three years and love it. I think what I enjoy most is empowering people through tech. Secondary to that, connecting with people, and reassuring them over their worries, makes the work really worthwhile. Our team is open to everyone for as long and often as they need us, and we’re ready for whatever is thrown at us. We do our best to empower and aid blind and partially sighted people with whatever tech they have. I think if I had received the kind of help earlier on, I would have excelled more easily at a quicker pace.

I’m also involved in the Volunteer Advisory Council, where we meet to discuss how to improve how we work with customers and volunteers. I wanted to give my own point of view, as initially we had some issues with feeling isolated, which is changing now as we now meet more regularly.”

Looking forward

“Since volunteering, I feel more confident. It makes me happy knowing that I can make a difference to someone’s life. Before volunteering I felt like I was just this person walking around aimlessly, not knowing what to do. Now I’m part of a directive, I have responsibilities, and I’m professional in my work and in how I perceive things. Volunteering has done wonders for me. If I were to say anything to someone considering volunteering, I’d tell them just to do it. Because it benefits you and others. It might even benefit them in the long run, facilitating them to go on to get a paid job. It gives you the opportunity to empower people, and when you put your head down at night, you actually smile and think to yourself, ‘today was a good day’. I want to thank RNIB for giving me the opportunity to become a volunteer, and for making a huge impact in my life.”