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RNIB volunteer Carole Birch raises over £170,000

Carole Birch, age 72, is a retired teacher. She has been volunteering for RNIB as a Sooty Collector since 2007 and has collected over £170,000.

Carole holding a Sooty charity box

"I’ve been volunteering, emptying Sooty boxes, since 2007, after I saw a Sooty box with a label advertising for volunteers. I love RNIB, the organisation is superb."

Managing RNIB’s Sooty boxes

I’ve got about 350 box sites which all span quite a large area - from Banbury to High Wycombe, to Daventry, to Northampton to Bedford Sandy. I have to go a couple of times a year, sometimes more often if the boxes are regularly full. I exchange the box for an empty one, bring it home, count and bank the money, wash all the Sooties and then head off the next day.

I like the volunteering role because of the flexibility - I can decide when to get out, and have the choice to do as much as I want, when I want to do it. But I always find that the people that I go out and see are very supportive of RNIB and they want to know what’s going on. I meet lots of people when I go out to the sites, they give me the box and we have a little chat.

The rewards of volunteering

When you open the box like I did the other day and you have a £157 pounds in it, you think, wow, that really is rewarding - both for the people when I send them the receipt and for me, to be able to say that I collected that much. I don’t keep a count of how much I collect over time, but the big boxes like that, they’re very rewarding.
I think that volunteering is something that would help people who find it difficult to get out and about and meet people socially. If they have a volunteering role such as mine, they have a reason to go out and see people and then a social life then builds up.

I was at the volunteers' meeting recently and I met another RNIB gentleman there who does the technical assistance, and I was able to learn about what he does. He hadn’t thought about how the money came into the charity, so I told him what I was doing, it helps to spread the word.

Volunteering gives you the fluency of talking to people. It makes you more relaxed when you meet new people. So if you’re going for a job, it’s not quite as daunting as if you’ve been sitting at home doing nothing for weeks on end. You just have to be organised really – it’s like a work timetable, but so much nicer. I’m quite happy doing this role, I’ve been doing it for some time and it’s never boring.”