There’s a saying that “If you want something done, ask a busy person. The more you do the more you can do.” Well you’d be hard pressed to find anyone busier than Chris Hancock. Or anyone more modest about their achievements.
We’ll begin with her work. Chris, who is now totally blind, is a fully qualified holistic therapist and offers treatments including aromatherapy, massage, reflexology and Indian head massage at her treatment room in a hair salon in Firth Park.
One day a week she works at the SRSB Cairn Home in Crosspool and once a fortnight she works with adults with learning disabilities. And she also offers to treat clients, staff and volunteers at the Mappin Street Centre.
Because of her own visual impairment Chris, who has a guide dog, is very aware of the problems faced by people with little or no sight visiting a large salon. So she’s happy to work with them in surroundings they are familiar with to let them benefit from holistic therapy.
Chris draws on her own experiences for the volunteer work she has done for SRSB over many years. Her involvement began when she helped to set up a new group at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital for people who had only recently lost their sight.
That work extended into taking part in visual awareness training for medical students, which she still does six times a year, as well as for groups in the workplace and in schools.
"Recently I’ve been involved with meeting and supporting people newly registered with visual impairment. It’s important that people have someone to talk to when they are going through the shock of losing their sight, and their families are also having to deal with it,” says Chris.
And as well as her volunteering with SRSB, Chris has also been involved with the Blue Cross pet bereavement support service.
Chris has had her guide dog Wilma for seven years. She is her fourth dog. She knows only too well how difficult it is when that support goes, as one of her guide dogs was taken ill very suddenly.
“The worst 17 weeks of my life were when I was without a dog, it was horrible. I just got so used to being able to go anywhere with a dog, whereas without one you have to go back to learning every route.”
Chris was born partially sighted but it gradually got worse when she was in her late teens and early 20s. Now she can only just make out light and dark.
She has four grown up children and gets up at 4.30am two days a week to get the bus across Sheffield to look after her young grandchildren. But that doesn’t stop her doing her volunteering.
“I’ve been volunteering in one form or another since I was about 16 years old. I get a lot from it, both the raising awareness and supporting people. I like the variety and I like to keep busy.
“It’s amazing how much people don’t know about visual impairment and disability in general. People ask me can you cook? Well yes I can cook, I live in the real world. If people ask me questions and only take away one piece of information which helps someone with visual impairment, then it’s worth it.”