Many of our wonderful clients at SRSB also play a vital role as volunteers and fundraisers. Ken Bower, age 71, is one of those people who is always willing to give his time and put in a huge effort to help others.
Every week in the SRSB office Ken, and other volunteers like him, come in and spend hours patiently working their way through the list of SRSB clients and telephoning them just to check how they are. Tele-Contact Volunteer is the perfect role for Ken to do because it uses his skills from his working life as a telephonist and administrator at the Health and Safety Executive.
Ken is totally blind after losing his sight when he got cataracts and glaucoma as a 12 year old boy. He works his way through his calls using special equipment and then makes careful notes about how each person is and any needs they may have.
“I ask people how they are, whether they manage to get out, whether they need any help and if they receive the newsletter. I try to help if I possibly can. If people are on their own it’s very important that they hear a friendly voice. Some are defensive at first because they get all sorts of phone calls. But they usually mellow when they realise you are from here and genuine.” he said. He knows that most people really appreciate their calls from volunteers like him.
“I think SRSB is brilliant. They look after people and do a fantastic job. Sometimes I feel lonely and that’s another reason why I come in here and do this work, I know what it’s like to be on your own and I can associate with what people with visual impairment are going through.
Ken also uses the services of SRSB. He’s part of the Swimming Group, attends Tai Chi sessions and also walks with the Sheffield Visually Impaired Walking Group.
Last year he was part of the Velodrome Challenge which raised over £1,700. “I’d never ridden a fixed tandem before. You have to pedal with the pilot, there is no coasting along. There are no gears and no brakes. Coming in you just have to slow down and then grab hold of a rail when you finish. In practise we went up the bank and it was like going on a rocket coming down.”
Until four years ago Ken managed with a white cane. Now he’s got guide dog Barley to help him get about. He’s always been independent travelling for his hobbies going to football matches, rock concerts, theatre and cinema. But he does wish he had got Barley years ago.” When you have a cane people don’t speak to you, with a dog they do, it’s like an ice-breaker.”
Ken does believe life has changed for the better for visually impaired people. “Modern technology has improved things tremendously. But when I was in my 20’s we were treated as if we didn’t have a brain. Now it’s different. I remember in the 60’s I wasn’t allowed in a nightclub because people thought we were a fire risk! Now there is a lot more understanding than there was.”