Partner update – Tracy Wilson
Over the weekend of May 11th & 12th, we held our first ‘Finding Your Feet’ empowerment course in our offices at Holgate Villa – facilitated by Jeff Page (RNIB), Diane Roworth (our Chief Officer) and myself. Five people experiencing sight loss and two of their supporters came together to share experiences and new ideas about living with sight difficulties.
Everyone arrived on Saturday morning a little nervous, not sure of how the weekend would unfold. After refreshments and a warm welcome, everyone was keen to begin and soon appeared more relaxed. The morning session, led by a rehabilitation Officer, concentrated on some of the difficulties that people with sight problems have when reading and writing. He demonstrated lots of practical ways that people can overcome these barriers and group members also shared their views and useful tips that they had discovered. This was followed by a visit to the equipment centre located here to look at the wide range of equipment available to make life easier and improve independence. Everyone commented that this was really useful and took away lots of new ideas.
After we enjoyed a super lunch provided by a local catering firm, the afternoon session kicked off with the group discussing ways of getting around and different mobility aids that can help blind and partially sighted people. Following on from this the group discussed how money could be problematic with a sight loss Discussions took place around the practical handling of coins and notes and also withdrawing money from cash machines, when you have a sight loss. Some practical solutions were given such as coin holders, talking cash machines. At that point the group were informed about their rights to having bills, statements and appointments provided in their preferred reading format.
After a full day and with lots of new information to take on board, everyone appeared happy but ready to relax at home for the evening ahead of day 2!
Sunday morning saw everyone arriving bright and early and feeling refreshed. The day began with looking at different emotions the impact of sight loss can have. We broke into two groups, one for those with the sight loss and the other for those who support the person with sight loss. Why? Well, it was structured this way because both groups generally experience these transitions differently. Some found this more difficult to express and upsetting than others, but the whole group was very supportive and respectful of each other. The two groups came back together and shared some of the discussions. Most people commented that this was a really useful part of the weekend! After a break, we moved on to discuss local services that are available in the York area for those with sight problems and some general forms of support that may benefit general health and well being.
The afternoon session had the theme of nutrition and healthy eating – in particular how this relates to looking after our eyes. The local dietician who led this session brought in some tasty, healthy snacks for the group to sample – as well as some simple recipes for people to try at home. Everyone really enjoyed this session and stated that there were lots of ideas they felt they would put into action once they got home.
The final session was dedicated to setting goals and the small, achievable things people would like to set themselves as a task or next step. People came up with some really positive ideas including joining an exercise class, making more homemade soups, contacting the local Rehab team to discuss white cane training, taking computer lessons, learning how to use a computer with software that makes it easier for someone with low vision and even having more happy dreams!
Was the course a success?
Everyone who attended said they would recommend the course to a friend which was great to hear. There will be much more to follow up on with these group members as they all go on to develop their own individual action plans. They have agreed to keep in contact with other group members by telephone and we hope to arrange a course reunion for this group very soon.
A very positive and enjoyable weekend overall. It was really encouraging and lovely to see how much progress people made, in just 2 days and how well they supported each other. We are thrilled as peer support and empowerment is the essence of our project.