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Supporting volunteer campaigners to make a difference

Maqsood Sheikh is a Senior Regional Campaigns Officer with RNIB. Maqsood supports volunteer campaigners in the Yorkshire & Humber region with local campaigns about issues affecting blind and partially sighted people ranging from accessible information to transport or any issue the volunteer feels strongly about.

He also works alongside colleagues around the nation in the Local Campaigns team on coordination of national and local campaigning priorities.

Image: Maqsood with his friend and previous Volunteering team colleague, Donna, smiling after running the London virtual marathon.

“Working with volunteers is like the bread and butter of my role”

Maqsood Sheikh

As a Regional Campaigns Officer my role is to work on local campaigns with people. Blind and partially sighted people face all sorts of barriers and if they have an issue that they feel strongly about and want to get things changed, my role is to support them.

And those campaigns tend to be about access- getting around their local area and receiving accessible information. The minute you come out of your house, there are obstacles: cars parked on pavements, bins out for bin day, overhanging shrubs. The challenge of getting a bus: whether the bus stops for you or not, finding the machine to put your pass on, finding a seat, knowing where you are on the bus route. Or if you have appointments and you're not getting the information in a format that you can read.

I work with people who are responsible for providing these services and we need volunteers, because I can speak to the Council, but they could have the view that it's my job to have this conversation. They want to know how the access issue is affecting blind and partially sighted people. What's the impact it's having on their lives? So you need volunteer campaigners to work with. Working with volunteers is like the bread and butter of my role, really. We couldn't deliver the campaigns without them. We could say we want accessible transport, but we can't make that happen without the volunteers and volunteer campaigners because they're key to us changing society and removing those barriers.

They are my colleagues really. We can't do it without them. It's my role to look after them the same way as any good manager would look after paid members of staff at RNIB. I'm always available so they can get in touch with me. I'll make it a priority to get back to them. I make sure I have at least a monthly catch up with them, I won't let it go much more than a month without getting in touch with them

I'm really proud of my team of volunteers. They're just amazing people, they've got fantastic backstories. They bring so much experience with them. They're just a really talented bunch and I like to get them together so that they can meet each other and meet other people out there with sight loss. You can learn so much from each other and their campaign successes.

Were you always a volunteer manager?

No, no, I wasn't. I used to work for a local authority for many years. I joined the Children's Society as a volunteer and I liked the way I was managed there because we had regular contact and the training we got was really good. And so that's probably had an influence my role as a volunteer manager. It's treating volunteers how you'd want to be treated if you were a volunteer.