A befriending scheme that brings Christian volunteers alongside those who are losing their sight
Each day across Britain 100 people are told they are losing their sight.
Many are devastated by this unwelcome news. Few have anyone with them to help them face this challenge.
Eye clinics, social services and local charities all offer expert help but those struggling with the emotional and practical impact of sight loss need much more time than busy professionals can offer.
Torch’s vision is to mobilise Christian befrienders to come alongside those who are in the early stages of losing their sight, to be companions on their journey.
Torch Trust is piloting this scheme within the Southern Trust area in Northern Ireland, and seeking to expand the service throughout the UK.
Blindness is the most feared disability, yet 24% (almost one in four) of us will know what it is to experience sight loss during our lifetimes. One in three of those over the age of 75 live with sight loss.
Eye clinics are busy places, with around 7 million eye clinic appointments covering 1.8 million new patients annually. Most are treated successfully, but each day 100 individuals learn that there is no treatment that will reverse or prevent further sight loss.
Most are treated successfully but each day 100 individuals learn that there is no treatment that will reverse or prevent further sight loss.
‘Sight loss can be devastating. A person’s whole way of life may dramatically change … The risk of depression is raised … people with sight loss are more likely to report a reduction in mental health, quality of life and social functioning’ [source: Thomas Pocklington Trust].
It is not unusual to hear people describe sight loss in a similar way to the grief of bereavement. It can lead to high levels of depression, anxiety, loss of self-worth and social isolation.
According to theologian Prof John Hull who lost his sight in his middle years: ‘when sight is lost it is almost always experienced as a terrible deprivation, and the loss is inevitably followed by a period of grieving’, while 'The prevalence of depression is at least twice as high in visually impaired older adults than in older people with good vision.’ [Evans in UK-Vision Strategy].
Many turn to the church at a time of bereavement – so could the church be ready to support people experiencing another type of loss experience?
What people in the early stage of sight loss often need most is time – the time of someone who will come alongside them – someone who will encourage and support them as they adjust to change and rebuild their lives. Appropriate early support helps people to cope better, rebuilds confidence and leads to greater long-term independence.
Would you like to help? Read on to find out more...
A Journeying With volunteer can offer practical, confidential support to help someone adjust to sight loss, including the opportunity to discuss their deeper feelings and issues of faith. This may be a listening ear over the telephone, visiting at home or meeting out and about, and being ready to pray and support them on their faith journey if they choose. Volunteers offer support for a few hours each week, over about six months, to help people adjust to life with sight loss. This is a Christian-run scheme, but clients do not need to be Christian to access the service; it is open to all.
Torch Trust is seeking to engage volunteers from local churches to respond to the needs of those in their neighbourhood who are in the process of losing their sight.
Can you give the gift of time?
If you can give a few hours each week to help someone through the early, tough days of sight loss, we would love to hear from you. You don’t need any special skill or experience – we will provide practical training and ongoing support – but you do need the ability to listen, empathise and ‘act as a friend would act’.
Could you run a scheme?
We also need mature Christian volunteers and supportive churches to coordinate future schemes, to ensure that volunteers receive good support and pastoral care, and to establish good relationships with local eye clinics and services to ensure effective matching of clients and volunteers. So if you have relevant experience to bring and a supportive church network, we would love to hear from you.
Do you know someone who could benefit from Journeying With?
If you are a health or social care professional or know someone who is newly adjusting to life with sight loss and might benefit from having a Journeying With volunteer, do get in touch. Clients must be over 18, living within the project area and diagnosed with long term sight loss or a condition leading to permanent loss of sight.
We will ensure that you have the training, support and resources you need to feel equipped and confident as a Journeying With volunteer. We will also offer ongoing supervision and peer support on a regular basis.
Once we receive your completed application, we will contact you to arrange a short interview, after which we follow up with your referees, arrange the usual security checks and book you in for the initial training.
To protect everyone’s safety, we arrange DBS security checks (as you may be in contact with vulnerable adults), carry out risk assessments before clients and volunteers are matched, and ensure appropriate insurance cover. Torch will also cover all reasonable travel expenses for the pilot scheme.
One off: Initial training; typically one day plus an evening session. This gives an opportunity to meet with other volunteers too.
Weekly: Meeting the client and staying in touch with the Volunteer Coordinator; typically between 1-4 hours, and up to two clients per volunteer.
Frequently: Meet with Volunteer Coordinator and other Volunteer Befrienders for peer support. (Typically 1 hour, approximately every 6 weeks)
Annual: Refresher training of 1 or 2 x 2½ hr sessions.
Initial training covers aspects such as visual awareness and the impact of sight loss, listening skills, Biblical basis and overview of the scheme, useful contacts and best practice. We involve Torch's own qualified team and other local providers with valuable expertise to bring.
The training will usually be delivered at a local venue, and ongoing support and 'refresher' training will be arranged as helpful.
Torch does not currently charge a fee for services and a donation towards costs would be appreciated. Information about the typical resources needed to set up a scheme will be provided in the Journeying With supporting documentation.
To find out more about Journeying With, or to explore potential developments in your area, we’d love to hear from you. There is further information in the leaflets below, or you can contact us using the following details:
- Janet Eardley, South West England, 07870 909779 firstname.lastname@example.org
- James Seager, Northern England, 07446 898149 email@example.com
- David Palmer, East Midlands, 01858 438272 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Leonard Campbell, Northern Ireland, 07761 971549 email@example.com
- Christine Ferreyra, Scotland, 07938 928446 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Debra Chand, National Office, 01858 438260 email@example.com
For churches and volunteers...
If you live in Northern Ireland Download a poster to display at your church.
If you are interested in being a volunteer befriender download an information leaflet
for volunteers, and an application pack.
For professionals and people with sight loss...