Essex Freemasons donate £30,000

Essex Freemasons have donated £30,000 to help us continue and develop our “Talk and Support service”. It means that the project, which first began during lockdown, now has sufficient funding for the next three years.

The money, donated via the Masonic Charitable Foundation, the Freemasons own charity, will help ensure that this unique scheme which offers peer to peer support with the help of our visually impaired volunteers, will continue to grow.

The scheme works using volunteers who make regular phone calls to those members who are more isolated in the community. These volunteers have particular insight into the challenges faced by our clients on a daily basis, and a working knowledge of the support and advice we can offer.

Living with sight loss can be isolating in itself but during the lockdowns imposed over the course of the pandemic, that isolation has been even greater.  A phone call from someone who understands a visually impaired person’s situation can change that.

The grant from Essex Freemasons will allow us to develop our service, connect with more people isolated because of sight loss and train more volunteers. When restrictions allow, we hope to offer coffee mornings and local meet ups for small groups to help them stay connected and begin to mix with people again, as many will need to build up confidence.

Lucy Martin, CEO of Southend in Sight says: “We are delighted to receive this three-year grant from Essex Freemasons which will allow us to continue and develop our project for older visually impaired people in the local community.   I am very proud of everyone involved with our Talk and Support service and I know that the regular chats with our staff and volunteers have provided a lifeline for many over the last year.”

Paul Reeves, Deputy Provincial Grand Master in charge of Essex Freemasons, commented: “We have more than 2,000 members who meet in the Southend area and they are very much part of the local community. It means we are delighted to be able to support a charity which is doing such excellent work.”

National Lottery grant enables Sight Loss MOT

We are delighted to announce we have been awarded a grant from The National Lottery Community Fund. The grant helps secure our work for the next three years and allows us to offer a Sight Loss MOT to those seeking help with their visual impairment.

Our new project – Working Through Sight Loss Together – is headed up by CEO, Lucy Martin and aims to ensure the relevance and sustainability of our work in the community for years to come. The project introduces an assessment for anyone coming to the charity for help and advice with any sight loss issues, whether newly diagnosed or having existing conditions. This assessment, the Sight Loss MOT, will enable the charity to plan an individual, tailored pathway for each person and offer a joined-up service with other local charities and groups which can also provide help and support for those living with sight loss.

Lucy Martin, Southend in Sight’s CEO said “The grant from the National Lottery has given us and the local community reassurance that for anyone who experiences sight loss issues, we will be there to help navigate their journey together and offer support and advice.”

100 Years Young

During lockdown, volunteers from Southend in Sight began offering a Talk and Support service helping the charity’s visually impaired members who were shielding to have contact with the outside world. One of the members using the service was Doris Rose. She was supported by volunteer Paul Taylor. The two struck up a friendship and when Doris approached her 100th birthday, they met socially distanced but in person, for the first time (picture right).

Doris Rose began to experience macular degeneration a few years ago and found support through Southend in Sight. Her walking is restricted and throughout the first lockdown she was shielding but she has a very positive outlook on life and describes herself as ‘the youngest old age pensioner’. She has been having regular weekly calls from Paul since April and said of them “To begin with our calls were just for a few minutes but as we’ve got to know each other, the conversations have got longer and longer. It makes a change to hear someone else. I love a discussion.”

Paul has volunteered for Southend in Sight since July 2019, having experienced his own sight issues a few years ago. He now calls six visually impaired people every week and a further two every other week as part of the charity’s Talk and Support scheme.

He says, “Doris is always so bright and bubbly when we speak. She never has a negative word to say. It was wonderful to actually meet her at last. She may not realise it but talking to her every week has also helped me during lockdown,” he said.

Our thanks to Paul and all our Talk and Support volunteers.  The difference you are making to people’s lives is plain to see.

117 Challenge

Southend in Sight staff decided to mark World Sight Day last year by taking on a “117” challenge. Our aim was to run or walk 117 miles between us from 1-8 October, finishing on World Sight Day, raising awareness and funds for our Sight Loss Centre at 117 Hamlet Court Road. We counted our steps and miles and competed with each other as we walked to work, walked the dog or took an early morning run! Some of our volunteers and supporters also took on their own challenge – walking 11.7 miles in a week or over a weekend as a family.
We are pleased to say that 6 members of staff managed to walk 158 miles between them in 1 week – an amazing achievement – and managed to raise £500 as well! Thank you to all those who took on their own personal “117” challenge and supported us along the way.

Southend in Sight is the Community Services Division of Southend Blind Welfare Organisation. Southend Blind Welfare Organisation is an independent charity providing practical support and advice to those living with visual impairment and blindness in the Southend-on-Sea area. Registered Charity No: 1069765