How volunteering changed my life

Post date: 
Monday, 21 May 2018

To celebrate Volunteers' week (4 - 10 June), mum of three Tafsila Khan tells us why volunteering with RNIB helped her find a new lease of life after sight loss. 

In September 2016, my youngest child started full time education. I’d spent the last 10 years bringing up my three children and found myself feeling lost, wondering what my purpose was.

All the other mums were either studying or increasing their hours at work. I didn’t have a job or career to go back to and studying definitely wasn’t for me. At the same time, I started to notice my eye sight was deteriorating quite rapidly. I tried shrugging it off and made excuses about my sudden sight loss, at this point I think I was in denial. The loss of my identity coupled with the changes in my sight had a profound effect on my mental health.

After a few months I couldn’t ignore the changes any longer and made an appointment with my optician, who referred me to my eye consultant at the hospital. The consultant diagnosed me with nystagmus, an involuntary movement of the eyes which affects focus and can make vision blurry. Whilst I was at the hospital I confided in my consultant about struggling to deal with the changes in my eye sight, both mentally and with my physical mobility. The consultant put me in touch with a rehabilitation officer.

The rehab officer primarily helped me with my mobility, I was introduced to different assistive aids, including training with a long white cane. The rehab officer also suggested that I consider counselling through RNIB to talk through my worries. RNIB’s counselling service is carried out over the phone, for an hour per week over eight weeks. I can remember thinking this was such a short time and wasn’t sure effective it’d be.
 

After the first phone call the counsellor put me at ease and was very empathetic. Over the next few weeks she helped me see the positive changes I could make and encouraged me to think differently about myself, my strengths and how much I had to offer. Following my last session she emailed me some contacts at RNIB I’d requested. This is where my journey of volunteering with RNIB began.

I met with Eleanor Rothwell, the Community Facilitator for Wales. We spoke about becoming a volunteer and what areas I’d enjoy working in. I was most interested in campaigning for disability rights and bringing awareness to the wider community. I also felt there was a lack of support and social groups for young blind and visually impaired people between the ages of 20 and 50.

With Eleanor’s help I contacted young members of RNIB in my local area and arranged to meet for a coffee to get to know each other better and to see what interests the group had. One of our first trips was to the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff to talk about how accessible the venue is for blind and visually impaired (VI) customers and find out about upcoming audio described shows. I hope to connect with other blind and VI parents to help support them and just talk about children as us parents do.

I’ve come so far in rebuilding my confidence since volunteering and taking part in projects like #seethefunnyside with RNIB this past year.

Volunteering is such a rewarding experience, helping others discover their potential and increase their confidence also makes a big difference to your own wellbeing. There are many ways to get involved with RNIB. This is just one of the organisations I volunteer with and there are so many charities out there that could benefit from your help.

So if you’re thinking of volunteering with any of these fantastic organisations, all I can say is go for it and help make a positive change to yourself and the world around you!

Source: This article originally appeared onTafsila's blog, Me, Myself and Eye, and was published with her permission. 

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