“This time last year I came crawling – and I mean crawling – to the RNIB. I’d been let down so many times. People had told me they were only being nice to me because I was blind. I’d got no confidence and lacked trust. I was going nowhere, despondent and upset.”
24 year old Jade King had poor eyesight as a child, and before she was 10 she had been diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP).
Jade says: “It all started with an email I got from Mike Hall, (Volunteer Facilitator North East Network) asking to meet up. He’d been given my details from a volunteer centre. If Mike had let me down that would have been the final straw. I wouldn’t like to think what would have happened if he hadn’t helped me.”
But Mike didn’t let her down, and one year on, Jade’s life is unrecognisable from what it had been.
Jade explains: “Mike signed me up as a volunteer and worked with me to get me back on my feet. I started supporting Mike at volunteering events, helping him set up and run a connect group in Stanley. I’ve been into schools and given talks on being visually impaired to school children, I even appeared on the local BBC news!
“Once I got my confidence, motivation and purpose in life back I started to feel like I don’t want people to go through what I had. Everything I’d been through was so unnecessary. It sounds a bit cheesy, but I’d been at my wits end.
“Tomorrow I’m going to do my first ever mentoring, helping a young girl who’s in the same position I was in, who thinks ‘I’m the only blind person in the world’ but I can say, ‘No hen you’re not, cos I’ve come through this and you can too.’
“I go out and do motivational speaking, asking people to give money to the work of RNIB so other people can be helped. I’ve created a fantastic life with RNIB. My slogan is I went from zero to hero.
“This journey of volunteering with RNIB has given me confidence to move out of my home town and into a new area, and made me aware that my happiness is important. Now I’m a young person ambassador for the North East Network. I chair a volunteer subcommittee for Mike and I travel all over the network to help anyone.”
In April this year, just as her volunteering was taking off and she was really beginning to flourish, Jade lost her sight completely. She says: “That gave me another hurdle to overcome. But volunteering helped me to get through it. It stopped me being selfish and going in on myself. I’m doing it for others. If I don’t go and talk to that little girl tomorrow, she’ll be left with no-one like I was. I had nothing. This has helped me overcome that I’ve lost my eyesight and given me a healthy distraction.
“What are my hopes for future? I want to continue what I’m doing, helping others. My ambition is to take 1 percent off the depression rate and become an ambassador for the North East. I want to continue to inspire others, do more motivational speaking, and keep on growing professionally.
“Volunteering for RNIB has been life changing and life saving. It’s given me a purpose in life. I genuinely believe I would have crashed without it.”
It’s people like Jade – and all our volunteers – that make a huge difference to people’s lives and our work to create a world where there are no barriers for people with sight loss.
We want to say a big thank you, on behalf of our customers, for your support, dedication and enthusiasm – we couldn’t do it without you.