“Volunteering got me through lockdown"Posted: Tuesday 1 June 2021 at 10:11
Since becoming a Skills for Seeing volunteer five years ago, Caroline Noall has provided one-to-one training to more than 46 people with macular disease - teaching them how to make best use of their remaining vision and continue doing the things they love.
Caroline’s first guinea pig was her dad, who at the age of 94 had been living with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) for many years.
“I didn’t expect it to work,” she said.
“His sight was pretty poor and his memory wasn’t very good at that stage either, so I didn’t expect much. However, although it never became second nature to him, he did find it helped and he could see things by looking up and to the right, if I was there to remind him, he remembered.”
However, during lockdown Caroline has had to adapt her one-to-one session, previously held face-to-face, to take place over the telephone.
She said: “It’s been a huge learning experience and it was a huge leap when we went on the telephone. But, it’s been brilliant. I’ve met and spoken to some wonderful people, some very inspirational and people that keep me going.
In the last five years Caroline herself has been diagnosed with Cataracts and AMD, but thanks to her volunteering has been able to remain positive.
“At the moment my sight is reasonable, I just find it tiring to look at small print for long periods of time,” she said.
“All these wonderful people who’ve learnt new hobbies, or carry on with their old hobby are so inspiring. Although they may not be technically as good as they were when they were fully sighted, they still do it because they enjoy it. It makes you think ‘gosh, I could do that’ so that’s what’s helped me.
“Obviously I would prefer not to have it, but it’s not a worry to me anymore. As you get older you have to accept your body isn’t going to work as well as it did. If my sight is my only problem then there are ways round it.”
Caroline encouraged anyone with a spare hour or two in their week to get involved with volunteering for the Macular Society and help those living with macular disease.
She said: “I’ve learnt so much and have gained so much from it, I really have. It’s kept me going in lockdown. All my family are in England, I’m in Wales and I live on my own so I knew I had to do a lot to keep myself active, mentally and physically, right from the very first lockdown. It has given a form to my week. I fit in the exercise and all the rest of it around my calls and it’s given me a focus and a purpose and will continue to do so after lockdown.”
During the last 12 months Caroline has also signed up as a telephone befriender.
She added: “I’m so grateful to the Macular Society for giving me the opportunity to help and for all the support and advice they give me.”
In Volunteers' Week we would like to say a huge thank you to all of our incredible volunteers, making a difference to the lives of people with macular disease. Volunteers like Caroline provide vital support and help beat the fear and isolation that a diagnosis can bring.
If you want to help people with macular disease, find out more about the opportunities we have available here.