Categories
Interview

Talk with a trustee: Frances Jacobs

In our latest interview with a member of the SSW community we meet Frances Jacobs, who is a Trustee, and was a volunteer before that. Hello Frances!

Name: Frances Jacobs

Have you always lived in Worthing? I have lived in the Worthing area since I was 10 and I now live in Angmering.

How long have you been involved with Sight Support Worthing (SSW)? I have been a volunteer since 2015 and a trustee since 2016.

What’s your role at SSW? I make teas and coffees at the music afternoon and other social events. I also help on the mini bus and on members’ outings.

What do you especially enjoy about your role? I enjoy meeting both members and other volunteers

Tell us about a time at SSW that you have particularly enjoyed? I used to help with an art group and have a special memory of holding an exhibition at Worthing Library. We took the members to see it; the pictures were amazing.

What do you love about living where you do? I love living in this area being near both the sea and the Downs

How do you spend your free time? Walking with friends and playing golf

Tell us an amazing fact about yourself! I have been very lucky to travel extensively with my husband Graham, including trips to Antartica and trekking in the Himalayas. My most memorable experiences were spending time with the street children in Delhi and visiting a township in Kampala, Uganda representing ActionAid.

 

Thanks for your responses Frances! The experiences overseas sound fascinating. If you’re a member of SSW and would like to feature in our interview slot, we’d love to hear from you. Just email emily@sightsupportworthing.org.uk and she will send you through the questions.

Frances and Dawn, two of SSW's volunteers, dressed up for Halloween

 

Categories
News

Introducing our new Volunteer Coordinator, Katie Saunders

Hello to all Sight Support Worthing members!

I am honoured to be the new Volunteer Coordinator.

I live in Ferring and love this whole area that we are blessed with. I’m a mum of two young ones, and we love nothing more than to explore the surrounding areas of natural beauty in our free time.

I am a keen birdwatcher and nature lover, so spend most of my time outside where I can! My other huge passion is music, which brings so much into my life.

My background is varied, having worked as a Project Coordinator in the volunteer travel sector to driving a boat at Arundel WWT. I am very excited to join the team at Sight Support Worthing and look forward to meeting some of you as activities slowly start again at the centre!

Categories
Interview

Powwow with the president: Bob Smytherman

Our Executive Board play an important role in SSW and it’s always interesting to find out more about their background. In this insight we meet Bob Smytherman, who is President of SSW. You might also recognise him as Worthing’s Town Crier!

Name: Bob Smytherman

Lives: Worthing

Have you always lived in Worthing? I born in our family home in Lancing before moving to my own home in Worthing in 1991

How long have you been involved with Sight Support Worthing (SSW)? Since 2012

SSW President Bob Smytherman on Highdown Hill in his Town Crier attire

What’s your role at SSW? President

What do you especially enjoy about your role? I love meeting with our Members at our regular events such as the Burns Lunch or Christmas Party and Volunteers afternoon tea.

Which moments at SSW have you particularly enjoyed? 

Being Master of Ceremonies for the Burns Lunch and addressing the Haggis is always a particular highlight as was Chairing the steering group for the lottery project looking in to the history of the charity and visually impaired people in the town.

What do you love about living where you do? I love being close to both the sea and Downs with a great range of shopping and leisure facilities on our doorstep.

How do you spend your free time?  I love spending my time as Worthing Town Crier promoting our amazing town and community organisations

Tell us an amazing fact about yourself! I was Milk Monitor at St Mary’s Catholic Primary school in Worthing where I am now a School Governor.

Photo of Bob Smytherman, President of SSW

Categories
Our aims

Showcasing SSW in the local press

We’re currently publicising the work of Sight Support Charity in local media, with the aim of highlighting our services to potential members as well as other interested partes. Here’s a copy of the article we’ve placed. If you’d like to see the article as it appeared, you can take a look at it here.

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The past year has been full of challenges for all of us, regardless of age, location or situation. For Sight Support Worthing this has meant ensuring its members continue to receive the support, advice and social engagement they’ve been used to. Sight Support Worthing – as the name suggests! – offers a range of activities, events, resources and information designed to inspire and support those who are blind or partially sighted, and their families. Membership is free of charge and open to anyone with a visual impairment.

 

The charity is headed up by Sonia Baker, who started in her role as General Manager in March 2020. Sonia’s first year has seen Sight Support Worthing (SSW) needing to introduce new ways to support members and a number of new initiatives have been introduced: “Along with dealing with the restrictions of lockdown and the challenges that brought, our aim has been to develop the Charity for the future so it meets the changing interests of a wider visually impaired community, while keeping our familiar and welcoming culture.”

Like many other organisations, online communication has been key, especially when it comes to sustaining social interactions. SSW now runs popular weekly sessions including an art group and chair yoga. These are set to continue, with face-to-face classes being held in addition to online options. With lockdown restrictions now reducing, plans are being made to reopen the SSW Centre in Rowlands Road, Worthing for in-person support.

 

One of the areas that is key to the Charity’s vision is technology. Plans include providing demos, tech support and how-to classes for using tech at all levels. “Accessible tech plays an important part in helping enrich people’s lives and open up opportunities for them. However some devices can seem daunting to learn or are priced out of people’s reach. So we’re really trying to help people see what’s out there, as well as giving opportunities to try out equipment to see if it’s right for them. Then once people invest in technology, we’re here to offer them assistance.” says Sonia, who is leading the project.

 

The year ahead is an exciting one for Sight Support Worthing and its members. As well as the expansion of the charity’s technology for visual impairment service, they are launching a volunteer/member buddy scheme, which will match people by shared interests. Naturally, as a charity, volunteers are crucial and muchvalued members of the Sight Support team; new volunteers are always welcome and there are varied roles available.

 

Another important aim for the charity is to introduce activities for its younger members. As Sonia says: “One of the things we’ve been looking at is the gap between activities and services aimed at the very young, and those that appeal to more senior people. There is definitely a shortage of options for those aged between 30-50. These people may be busy with families or jobs and aren’t necessarily looking to engage with a charity on a daily or weekly basis. Equally they might be missing out on some great services simply because they aren’t being offered anything relevant. So we’ll be looking at new ways to reach that missing demographic.”

 

In their quest to attract new members and provide appealing events, activities and  services, the team is looking to collaborate with other organisations, groups or businesses. Sonia and her team are keen to pool resources and share ideas with others who have similar aspirations: “Now more than ever, organisations need to stop working in silos and work together. So many services remain a postcode lottery which doesn’t meet the needs of the community. Logistically we cannot provide everything to everyone, but if we collaborate we can make sure the things we can’t provide, someone else can and vice versa.”


The Charity would love to hear from anybody who would like to to find out more (either for themselves or a family member), those who are interested in volunteering, as well as anyone working within an organisation, group or business who is keen to partner or collaborate on projects and initiatives.

 

“We’re always open to working with anyone who has ideas for inspiring, supporting or promoting accessibility to visually impaired people, particularly those who are themselves are visually impaired, so do get in touch.”

Categories
Interview

Talk with a trustee: meet Dawn O’Donnell

Name: Dawn O’Donnell
 
Lives: I have lived in Worthing for 4.5 years moving from south east London in 2016. 
 
How long have you been involved with SSW?
When I moved here I knew no one and my husband was commuting back to London each day. He was leaving at 6 in the morning and not getting home until 5 in the evening; that’s a long day with no one to talk to especially if talking is your specialist subject! 
 
I decided no one would knock on my door just for a chat so I better find some company. I walked down the road, saw the sign at SSW (then The Blind Society) asking if you could make tea and coffee, and applied as a volunteer. I volunteered for about two years then was asked to become a trustee in August 2019. 
 
What’s your role at SSW? What do you especially enjoy about your role?
I started in the Art class which I absolutely loved. Then I started taking members on trips and coffee mornings and helping out at afternoon events, which I did right up until covid stopped play. 
 
If you take part in the activities or groups at SSW which have you particularly enjoyed or have special memories of?
I have many fabulous memories of conversations with members, Christmas parties, days out and, of cours,e directing the legendary (in my mind) SSW pantomime but I think my favourite was in an art class. Fiona, the tutor, asked a member – also called Dawn – if she wanted to make a birthday card with an owl in it. She said “ohh I can’t do that” so I said I would help her. Dawn’s sight was poor and she was also quite fragile but, between us, we made the card and the look on her face when we finished it was magic. Sadly Dawn passed away not that long after but I will always remember her grinning from ear to ear with pride at her achievement. 
 
What do you love about living where you do?
I love the community feel in Worthing and every day during the pandemic I have thanked my lucky stars to be living by the sea. 
 
How do you spend your free time?
I do work part-time for another charity but have been furloughed for the best part of a year. In this time I have been drawing. I belong to the Lockdown Scribblers (started by Jacqui who works for SSW) and have drawn something, mainly with a Disney twist, every day since 1st Jan. I also belong to the Worthing Blue Tits and have swum in the sea about a dozen times so far this year, including Easter Sunday. 
 
Tell us an amazing fact about yourself!
I don’t have many amazing facts about myself but I did get married in Las Vegas and Elvis walked me down the aisle. 
 
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That’s a great fact to end on Dawn and in the words of the great man himself… “Thank you very much!”
 
 
Categories
Interview

Volunteer voice: interview with Victoria Gray

Any organisation is formed, influenced and representative of the people involved, and especially in the case of a people-focused charity like Sight Support Worthing. We’re planning to introduce you to a wide range of the people that make Sight Support Worthing the wonderful community it is. We’ll be chatting with members, staff, trustees and volunteers.

It’s with a volunteer that we kick the series off. Here’s Victoria, who has recently started volunteering for us.

Name: Victoria Gray

Age: 26

Where do you live: Shoreham-by-Sea

Have you always lived in the same place?

I was born in Shoreham-by-Sea and it has always been my home town, however I have also been at a residential school and college. I went away to study at New College Worcester from the age of 11 for 7 years. This is a school for the blind. After this I went to The Royal National College for the Blind for 2 years. I found it hard living away from home as I missed my family and I have always loved Shoreham-by-Sea.

How long have you been volunteering with Sight Support Worthing (SSW)?

I have only  recently started volunteering. I would like to be involved in the things that SSW do as I am totally blind myself so I feel very passionate about meeting other people with sight loss and helping to make things accessible.

What activities (whether now or pre-Covid) have you enjoyed at SSW?

SSW have recently started running Chair Yoga sessions which I have really enjoyed. Yoga is very good for relaxation and I find I get a lot out of it because I struggle a lot with my balance which makes Chair Yoga the easiest form of Yoga for me to do.

Is there an activity or social group you’d like SSW to start?

Book Group where members could come together and discuss what they are reading.

Quizzes

Walking group where we could go for a walk and maybe get a pub lunch after.

Tandem Riding

Which of SSW’s other services or support have you used?

I haven’t used any other services but this is something I would like to do and as a volunteer I would like to help in any way I can.

What do you love about living where you do?

I love the community feel. It’s nice to live somewhere where people look out for each other. I also love living by the sea.

How do you spend your free time?

Socialising with friends

Gaming

Reading

Yoga

Choir

Drama workshops

Tell us an amazing fact about yourself! 

I have recently started helping to run a book group for the RNIB. It is the first ever group that I have helped to run and it feels like a great achievement. I sometimes get a bit anxious so being able to help run a group and bring people together is such a wonderful feeling and I love being able to help people to connect with each other.

Thanks, Victoria; how brilliant it is to have you on-board as a volunteer! Victoria’s input as someone with sight loss will be of great benefit to the team as they develop services and activities for members. Look out for Victoria when the Centre reopens in the coming months.

Are you a volunteer or member of Sight Support Worthing and would like to be featured in our interviews, you can email Emily.

Of course we’re always keen to welcome new members and volunteers. Do get in touch if you’d like to find out more.