lots of different coloured paints and paint brushes

Jo Richardson talks about how a chance meeting led her to become a volunteer with RNIB Connect in Scotland.  

“I had recently become partially sighted, moved to Edinburgh from London and embarked upon a major career change. I became a volunteer with the RNIB from a chance meeting at a volunteer careers fair.

I volunteered at the arts and crafts workshops, befriended a young woman who was registered blind and went on to facilitate a telephone-based support group. My experience as part of the RNIB team was invaluable to me, and can be broadly summarised across three areas:

1. Learning how to live with my level of sight loss

2. Enabling my career change

3. Having a giggle and feeling a part of a community.

Learning how to live with my level of sight loss

I gained practical advice from volunteering with the RNIB. This was from induction training, assistive technology workshops, day to day tips from the group and person I befriended, travel discounts etc. Working with others with various levels of sight loss gave me perspective and inspiration on how to manage and accept mine.

Enabling my career change

I would not have been accepted onto my Cognitive Behavioural Therapies (CBT) Diploma or counsellor placements without my volunteering experience with RNIB. More importantly the volunteering experiences confirmed that my change in career direction felt ‘right’ and gave me the confidence to pursue it. I also learned new skills, including being trained as a telephone-based group facilitator.

Feeling part of a community

This is perhaps the most important one, as not feeling isolated and dealing with sight loss on my own, but instead feeling part of a community was (and is) so important. I loved the feeling of acceptance, belonging to this new group of people I never imagined I would become a part of, having a laugh at ourselves and feeling supported. This feeling, being connected to and sharing with others, filled me with happiness, even at times when life was difficult. My befriending relationship worked both ways in that we supported each other, and I experienced Edinburgh life from a local (with a lot of giggles and silliness along the way!)

I would wholeheartedly encourage anyone, with any level of sight, to get in touch with the RNIB team and get involved in making a real positive impact on the lives of people living with sight loss.”