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Technology for Life volunteer celebrate 45 years

Valentine Newey, 79, began volunteering when he was in his 30’s. Over the last 45 years, he has helped transform the lives of people with sight loss including a 1950s supermodel and close friend of James Bond writer Ian Fleming.

Thanks to Val’s technical know-how, he’s been able to help hundreds of people with machinery that enables blind and partially sighted people to enjoy their love of books. He started out fixing the giant old-fashioned eight track tape machines that were once used by RNIB for Talking Books. Later, this developed into CDs and nowadays he receives queries about smart phones and Amazon Alexa devices.

Amongst the hundreds of people he has helped, one memorable occasion was the time he went to a London flat to set up a magnifying device for a customer, only to find out she was a 1950’s supermodel.

Val said: “I just went to set up a magnifier and ended up staying five hours. The amazing thing about her was that she wanted to know all about who I was and why I’d volunteered for RNIB. She was very humble.”

It turned out she was once a cover girl for Christian Dior. In her later life she lived with Macular Degeneration and that’s where Val and RNIB came in.

Another famous face Val has met through his volunteering with RNIB was a close friend of James Bond writer Ian Fleming.

Val said: “When we get to the end of our lives, we want to look back and have some self-respect. It would be lovely to think you helped people. That has to be a good thing. They do say that volunteering is great for the soul.

“It’s great to do different things in life and you’ll make a lot of friends and unexpected things will happen.”

Cass Kamara, RNIB’s Volunteering Insight and Support Manager, said: “Val is a great example of the difference volunteering makes. Over the decades, Val has shared his skills and experience with many blind and partially sighted people through providing tech support and in return he’s got a sense of achievement from helping others. Volunteers allow RNIB to extend the reach of our services, connect people and support us to make the world a more equal place for blind and partially sighted people.”

Just short of 1,250 volunteers gave RNIB their time and skills in over 1,500 roles in quarter 2 of 2022. Volunteers provide support including ensuring those with sight loss can access vital technology, connect with others on the RNIB community and providing transcriptions of books and documents. They raise vital funds as Sooty Box collectors, share their experiences of sight loss and back RNIB campaigns.

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