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“Volunteering is absolutely crucial”, Anita tells us about being a Products for Life volunteer

Anita Nicholls, age 65, was working as a credit controller before getting made redundant. Now she works in RNIB’s shop, engaging with customers and demonstrating how products work. She finds volunteering very rewarding and a valuable way to spend her time.

Anita Nicholls working at her laptop

Finding a way into volunteering

“I was a credit controller for 20 years, and then got made redundant. I did some voluntary work for a group of blind or visually impaired people in East London. Then, about four years ago, the lady who runs that group asked me if I could do some volunteering for RNIB, and that’s where it all started.

I haven’t been doing paid employment since being made redundant from my credit control position. Well, after my paid employment, I was at a loose end. I was just sitting at home for a couple of years, and then I realised that I need to be doing something, but I wasn’t sure that I wanted to go back to paid employment. The voluntary work that I got into was only two or three days a month, but I quite enjoyed it. That’s why I’m sitting where I am today now, because I still do both. Now I volunteer at RNIB, and for the other group in East London two or three days a month.

Connecting with customers

Customers come into the shop, and I demonstrate the items that we sell and what’s available. I was a little bit intimidated at first, as I’d never done face to face customer service, but now I’m used to it and look forward to it. The main part of the voluntary job is talking to customers, making them feel at home, and showing them what we’ve got, if they haven’t already got a preconceived idea of what they want.

The work is face to face and hands-on. I’ve noticed from the customers that come in, that they like to be able to touch the items, and feel them for to get a better understanding.

Typical RNIB products

We sell a lot canes, cane tips, and a lot of eye shields. We’ve got eye shields in amber, green and blue. When the sun comes out, it’s difficult for blind and partially sighted people to get any perspective, so they need to wear eye shields to be able to feel the road, and even the pavement.

The only volunteers I’ve met are the ones that come in to work for John at Grimaldi House. They are absolutely brilliant – they’re really great to customers and just a good bunch of people.

Being in paid employment was great, as it paid the bills and the mortgage. I don’t want to sound like a cliché, but it’s only when you do volunteering yourself, that you realise how rewarding it is. I’m just helping people and it’s such a lovely feeling, and until I did it, I didn’t realise. My advice would be 100% go for it. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to stay, but just go for it and you’d be surprised.

I’m perfectly happy working for RNIB’s shop and for John. Volunteering is absolutely crucial. The volunteering work that I do is just the tip of the iceberg. I think it’s crucial that organisations have volunteers from the ground up, who are just there to help people as much as they can.”