Losing your eyesight has been likened to a bereavement, but those working for a charity that helps the blind say there’s no need to go through it alone.
Help is on hand and not just from trained outreach workers. People who have been through the devastating experience themselves offer their support, too
But sadly not enough people know about the Hertfordshire Society for the Blind and some have never even heard of its base tucked away in Boxmoor’s Alston Road.
There are around 22,000 people living in Herts with sight loss but the charity is only in touch with around 4,000 of those.
The charity offers lots of help and support including training, aids to help make life easier at home, help back into work, social meet ups, a befriending service and much more.
Hemel Hempstead’s Social Centre for the Blind hosts a sight information point on the second and fourth Monday of the month, when gizmos and gadgets are on show from raised bump stickers to fix onto cookers so that a blind or partiality sighted person can still set the oven temperature, to magnifying computers and walking canes.
Outreach worker for the area Dawn Bunting said: “I come across so many people that don’t know we are here and don’t know what we do, and we are the only centre of its kind in Hertfordshire.”
There’s also a low vision clinic, cooking classes, yoga, computer sessions and more.
Dawn said: “I do think losing your sight is comparable to someone having a massive bereavement – you can lose your job, you can’t drive any more, there is the threat to your independence, when everything you do you use your sight for.
“It’s a journey when you lose your sight or you have the knowledge that you are going to lose your sight. People react in all different ways.”
Among the helpers at the Boxmoor base is volunteer Pauline Hawkins, who suffers from macular degeneration, a condition that was diagnosed shortly after she retired after 30 years as a medical secretary.
The great-grandmother, who lives in Boxmoor has been a volunteer for 10 years. She said: “I’m able to say now – which astonishes people – that I can’t regret it because it has opened doors.
“All my life I worked with people and here is a wonderful opportunity working with people who are hurting, because I know what it is like.
“I would almost say that although it has been a disaster, it has also been a blessing to lose my sight.”
The charity needs volunteers, donations and would love a handyman.
A spring bazaar will be held at the centre on Saturday, March 29.
It is open to all and will run from 11am to 3pm with crafts, lucky dip and bric-a-brac on offer.
Contact Dawn on 07825 330648, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.hertsblind.com for more information.