In May 2023 our Volunteering Development Manager Steve Hendry caught up with Stuart, Fundraiser, Campaigner, registered Speaker and My Sighted Guide volunteer with Guide Dogs for a quick Q&A.
What inspired you to take on that role?
The first role… as I started to lose my sight I really wanted to help people who were starting to lose sight themselves and I wanted to give something back. But at first, it was about trying to get busy.
I started losing my sight in 2014, I was an HGV driver and I got a floater in my vision and it turned out to be a condition called Diabetic Retinopathy which meant that I had to give up work. My site started deteriorating reasonably quickie so by the end of 2015 I was registered blind, so it happened quite quick and I picked up conditions since then I have detached retinas and I have advanced cataracts as well.
I got involved with the service called My Sighted Guide, so I had a Sighted Guide myself from March 2015 and it was totally invaluable to me, it helped me as I was losing my sight to really get out and about as I was struggling with just a white cane. When I started getting involved with that that’s when I thought I really want to give something back. I feel if I can help one person not lose their sight then I have kinda done what I need to do.
I got Olivia (Stuart’s Guide Dog) in September 2017 so she has been with me since then. She is 8 now so getting old but she doesn’t act old.
What do you feel you are achieving and giving back?
I hope that when I talk to people it educates people, I tell people to get their eyes checked regularly, especially if you are a diabetic, you must get your eyes checked regularly. I try to educate but also I talk to people who are on the same path as me and I try to make them feel that they have the support that we can offer.
I talk to people on the phone and just help them along the journey if I can, if they want to cry while they are on the phone with me, that’s fine I really don’t mind because it helps them release that anxiety and pressure.
What would you say to someone thinking about volunteering but not quite sure?
I really do recommend it, volunteering is fantastic you can do as much or as little as you want and with Guide Dogs you know, let’s be honest, you come and meet these fantastic
dogs for a start and you get to meet us visually impaired people. We can be a bit talkative and sometimes it can be difficult to stop us talking. It’s very sociable as well as you are doing a really good thing. Lots of good reasons.
I would really encourage people to volunteer, no matter what they choose it doesn’t matter, volunteering is so fulfilling I would recommend it to anyone.
Inspired and want to find out more? Take a look at our Reading Volunteers website for more information on how you can make a difference.
This story is part of a series recognising, valuing and celebrating the varied work that volunteers do to make Reading a thriving community, improving and enriching the lives of all. Want to share your story or have volunteers who you feel have a story to tell? Contact Steve Hendry to arrange an appointment.