ROTARY ROUND-UP: Help at hand for partially sighted people

Volunteer Nick Howland (volunteer) with Sight Support Worthing member Barrie Smith on a tandem outing
Volunteer Nick Howland (volunteer) with Sight Support Worthing member Barrie Smith on a tandem outing

This week, David Chapman, from the Rotary Club of West Worthing, gives an update on the latest and future goings-on.

West Worthing Rotary Club was interested to learn more about Sight Support Worthing, formerly known as Worthing Society for the Blind.

The talk was presented by Barry Ward, the present chairman of the organisation.

After retiring from 41 years in the IT industry, Barry started as a volunteer driver in 2010, and then joined the board of trustees and became chairman in 2012.

He is still very much hands-on as a volunteer with the society.

The Worthing Society for the Blind is thought to be the oldest surviving independent society in Worthing.

Established in 1910 by a church group to supply firewood to a blind person in Worthing, it has evolved since through a number of phases.

It now supports 350 blind or partially sighted members through a range of activities including practical assistance.

One of the reasons for the change in name is that few members are not actually totally blind, but many having severe limitation of vision brings a range of problems and disadvantage with which the society helps people cope.

The Sight Support operation is run by a staff of six people (some part-time) and about 30 volunteers.

It is the volunteers that enable the range of activities to be undertaken.

Membership is open to anyone resident in the Worthing borough who has been diagnosed through an eye clinic as having a significant sight impairment that cannot be rectified by wearing spectacles.

There is no charge to join, although a small charge is made to help finance some of the activities.

The society has its own two-storey building on Rowlands Road which is the base for many of its activities.

This includes a resource centre which offers advice on the practical aids available as well as general advice.

The centre holds a wide range of group activities – for example crafts, films, music events, keep fit, boccia and tai chi, to name but a few.

In addition, a big part of the programme are the outings using their own 17-seat minibus.

These include theatre trips, shopping, lunches, cafes, walks and so on.

A very popular pastime are the outings on the tandem bicycle!

The society also offers a personal transport facility where volunteers take and return members from their homes for personal appointments.

Sight Support carries a range of practical equipment to assist partially sighted people overcome every day problems.

These include talking watches and clocks, magnifiers, special lighting, phones and radios with large format lettering.

Like many other voluntary organisations the society faces a number of issues.

Membership numbers are in decline – in common with sight care charities across the country.

This is in spite of the fact that the number of people being diagnosed with a sight impairment is undoubtedly on the increase.

There is an aging membership with 80 per cent being over 80. Many members live alone and it is difficult to reach out to them and provide help.

Barry said Sight Support is not seeking particularly financial support, but they would like to raise their profile so those who might benefit from the services are aware of its existence.

He would also be delighted to hear from those interested in volunteering, particularly those who could help out with the transport of members.

Thanking Barry for his informative talk, vice president David Cook said: “We do have a close relationship with Sight Support Worthing through our regular bingo sessions, adapted for those with partial sight, and the talking newspaper Voice of Progress, produced by local Rotary Clubs.

“We hope the message about their need for volunteers is heard.”

If you would be interested in helping you can find out more and contact Sight Support Worthing through their website – sightsupportworthing.org.uk

Details of Worthing’s three Rotary clubs are:

• Worthing Rotary Club meets Monday, 12.55pm, at the Chatsworth Hotel, in The Steyne, Worthing, 01903 209564.

• West Worthing Rotary Club meets Tuesday evening at Tudor Close, Ferring, 01903 501961.

• Worthing Steyne Rotary Club meets Monday evening at The Ardington Hotel, in Steyne Gardens, Worthing, 07788 638757.