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 this 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.

A Decade of Donations

Southend in Sight’s charity shop celebrates 10 years of business

Southend in Sight celebrates a decade of fundraising through its charity shop on Hamlet Court Road on Friday 24th April.  

In 2010, the staff, volunteers and trustees of the charity, then known as Southend Blind Welfare Organisation, could not have expected the shop to be the phenomenal success it is today. Over the last 10 years, sales from the shop have raised more than £567,000 for Southend in Sight. These funds have allowed the charity to support thousands of local visually impaired people over the years, and all thanks to the generous donation of items from the general public.

The charity’s fundraiser Catherine Hodgson said ‘There is a lovely atmosphere in the shop. There’s always laughter, a great pride in displaying items to their best advantage and a general camaraderie to raise as much money as possible for the charity.  The shop is manned by volunteers in morning and afternoon shifts who often compete with each other to see who can sell the most!’ 

The shop team is led by Lois Maulkin, the Charity Shop Manager. She joined Southend in Sight two years ago and, Catherine says, ‘changed us for the better.  Her wonderful window displays are now legendary in Hamlet Court Road and she has brought a whole new meaning to the word “vintage”!’

Lois says, “I love receiving donations as you never know what gems you might find inside. You would not believe what people give to us to sell.  I have seen the usual items such as old tea sets and designer clothes but it’s the ones with a bit of history that stick in your mind – the ball gowns from Paris and the family rocking horse made from a beer barrel!”

Although the shop is closed for the time being in line with government guidelines, Lois said ‘We will be celebrating and thanking all our volunteers, some of whom have been with us from the opening of the shop, when it is safe to do so.’   

‘We are confident of bouncing back when we are able to open our doors again, raising more funds for the charity and enabling more people to benefit from the charity’s advice and support.  We know that we have the support of our regular customers and the local community.’

Catherine Hodgson added ‘We would like to thank all our supporters who donate so generously to us.  These donations are what help us achieve such good sales and in turn help us support the local visually impaired community.’

Bowled Over by VIP Success!

Southend in Sight is celebrating the success of two of its bowling teams who made it to the National Blind Tenpin Bowling Association Finals held in Wigan on the weekend of 9 & 10 November.  The men’s team came a respectable 8th place but the ladies team beat all the competition to come first. 

The teams qualified for the finals within the top 14 teams in the country with 48 teams competing during the group stages of the competition. Both teams were pleased with their performance at the finals and were proud of what they had achieved, in getting to the finals but also in making the journey from Southend to Wigan. 

Clare Mclewin was the star player.  She was awarded the Salisbury shield for the best average pin score.  In nine years, no-one from the Southend in Sight bowling teams has ever won this.              

The bowling teams, known as the Kursaal Flyers, have been bowling since 2009 with a history of success over the years.  In May 2017, two teams made it through to the Finals, coming 4th and 11th. In 2014, the first team lifted the trophy and in 2013, the Flyers placed 3rd and 5th.

The achievement of the VIP (visually impaired persons) bowlers is all the more remarkable after the closure of the Kursaal Bowling Alley earlier this year necessitating a move to a different venue, CJs in Hockley.  The adjustment to the lanes and lighting as well as the additional travel has not knocked their confidence. They have not let these setbacks dampen their spirits and have come together determined to succeed.  The dedicated support of staff and volunteers is also a factor in the team success at the finals.

Lucy Martin, CEO of Southend in Sight said ‘I’m so proud of both teams, their hard work and dedication has really paid off and it’s an enormous achievement to come in first!

The 30 strong group of visually impaired bowlers, including one wheelchair user, are helped at their Thursday afternoon practice and league sessions by Southend in Sight volunteers who guide the players up to the line and advise them on the pins left to be knocked down. Each partially sighted bowler has a handicap and plays to their own ability.

The bowling team is in desperate need of more volunteers to help – no bowling experience is needed and full guiding training will be given.  If you are free to help the best bowling team in the country on a Thursday afternoon and interested in volunteering, please call 01702 34 21 31.

Walking a half marathon for Southend in Sight

8 staff and volunteers including 3 VIPs walked the 13 mile Colourthon to raise money for Southend in Sight.

It was tough going, particularly at mile 10 when the heavens opened. Our sight impaired walkers coped well with the poor street lighting, slippery and uneven pavements as well as the cobblestones of old Leigh.

We all felt a great sense of achievement as we crossed the finish line and received our medal along with a much needed cup of tea and cookie!

Sky’s the limit for local sight loss charity

Climbing the 02 is the most ambitious challenge that Southend in Sight has ever undertaken, with eight visually impaired people and their guides making the climb.  The weather was shining on us as we gathered at our offices on Hamlet Court Road to take the short walk to Westcliff Station.

If you are visually impaired, negotiating getting on and off a train is a challenge in itself.  Add in a mix of crowds, noise, changing from light to dark and escalators and you can very easily become disorientated.

Form filling at the 02 base camp and then attempting to dress in climbing gear with little or no sight took some time but we got there in the end.

Following instructions on attaching and moving the climbing belt up the rail was difficult but we all got the hang of it and were eager to begin our journey to the top.

The climb up the 02 itself was a breeze.  A beautiful sunny day with amazing views over London made it all worthwhile.  We all felt a huge sense of achievement as we reached the summit and posed for pictures with our guide Charlie.

Many were apprehensive about the climb down and there were some sweaty, anxious brows.  A few were carrying old knee injuries but with some encouragement and a few of us opting to walk backwards so as not to look down, we all made it in one piece back to terra firma.

The climb was a memorable day for all of us – the gentle banter, the arms around each other as people overcame their fears and the sense of camaraderie and purpose as we strived to reach our goal.  Our charity is all about a “can do” attitude and independence, and this was all on show throughout the journey.

Our little stunt has brought us all closer together and helped to raise over £850.

Tea for two, or three, or more for charity volunteers

Local sight loss charity, Southend in Sight celebrated its dedicated volunteers in Volunteers’ Week with an afternoon tea at Essex
Bowling Club.

Lucy Martin, Southend in Sight’s Chief Executive said ‘Without the help and support of our volunteers, we would not be able to provide the level of service that we do to the local community. A huge thank you to all our volunteers – we salute you all!’

Many of the volunteers at Southend in Sight live with sight loss themselves so are very well placed to help others just diagnosed with sight problems and understand the needs of the charity’s members. Volunteers help in the charity’s shop on Hamlet Court Road, support members on trips and offer advice on a range of equipment designed to make life a little simpler for the visually impaired. New volunteers are always welcome.

Southend in Sight celebrates national award win

Southend in Sight is celebrating winning the Life Changing Impact Award on Wednesday 24 October at The Visionary Conference held at Aston Conference Centre in Birmingham.

The Life Changing Impact Award, sponsored by Thomas Pocklington Trust, is open to Visionary members who can demonstrate the impact they have had on the lives of blind and partially sighted people. Southend in Sight, the Community Services division of Southend Blind Welfare Organisation, won the award because of its commitment to reducing financial concerns in those experiencing sight loss issues.

The charity, based in Hamlet Court Road Westcliff, introduced a volunteer-led service helping people to apply for Attendance Allowance, advising on other benefits and general financial help after finding that many of its service users had no idea that Attendance Allowance was available to them.

Due to their sight loss, individuals were struggling with cleaning, gardening, reading post, getting out and about, shopping, etc. and this regular allowance makes many of these day to day activities easier, meaning people can remain independent. All the attendance allowance applications made with the charity’s help have been successful. Service users can afford to get a taxi, have a regular cleaner, ask people to go out, go shopping and have help in the garden.
Lucy Martin, CEO of the charity said ‘We have helped reduce money anxiety for our elderly service users, who now know they have enough money to live on and they won’t be in debt or lose their property. And most importantly we have helped people take control of their lives. With changes to benefits, we see a group of people living day to day but feeling like their fate is in somebody else hands. With our help and support, blind and partially sighted people have felt like they are back in control of their life and their future.’

David Hurst, Chairman of Trustees for the charity attended the Visionary Conference in Birmingham to ceremony to accept the award and said, ‘I am delighted the volunteers and staff have been recognised nationally for the excellent work they do in Southend.’

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