Graham is the third winner in our Volunteer Essex Story Competition 2018
My name is Graham, I am 58 years old and have congenital Glaucoma.
The thing is with Glaucoma, it is known as the silent thief of sight, as it causes a build-up of pressure in the eyes which damages the optic nerve. Glaucoma is a slow painless condition that gradually damages your sight. Unfortunately because it is optic nerve damage, once the damage is done there is no cure for this.
I was working for a company in Chelmsford from 1980 until 2014. During this time my sight had got so bad that I could no longer read printed text or operate a computer but because of the amount of time I had been with the company (and thanks to some amazing colleagues) I was able to carry on working.
I was constantly worried that the managers would realise the full extent of my sight loss, for this reason for the last few years I was convinced that I would be sacked. I was married with a teenage son and a mortgage. I finally returned to the opticians in 2008, where I was swiftly sent back to the hospital and registered as ‘severely sight impaired’. I kept quiet until 2014, when the firm I worked for closed our site down.
Then followed 3 years of unemployment. The experience of the job centre was difficult and there appeared to be little in the way of help or re-training available.
Eventually I was signposted to Support 4 Sight and haven’t looked back since.
Firstly, I went over to their resource centre and was shown some amazing pieces of equipment, that until then I had no idea existed.
I then signed up to become a volunteer. Speaking in front of crowds, running a coffee morning, riding a tandem from Chelmsford to Saffron Walden and arranging social trips are just a few of the things I have been encouraged and supported to do.
I was signposted to a computer course for visually impaired people and it was amazing to use a PC again after all these years. Then in 2014, I went on to apply for a job with the charity – something I would have thought impossible a couple of years ago. The job was based around thirty miles from my home, with only public transport to rely on and, of course, the sight loss makes it very hard to recognise people’s faces.
But I really wanted to give it a go! This experience has changed me and my life for the better and I have also helped open a new resource centre in Chelmsford.
I am supported by a great team of people and best of all, I no longer live a lie! I don’t have to try and hide in the background and be anonymous any longer now I can just be myself.
Without becoming a volunteer, I would not be in this position now.I would encourage anyone to find a charity or organisation and become a volunteer, it will change your life as it has changed mine.
To view volunteering opportunities with Support 4 Sight CLICK HERE