Spotlight on Sandwell Visually Impaired
Tell us what you do
SVI (Sandwell Visually Impaired) is a truly user led organisation of blind and partially sighted people who live or work in Sandwell. We provide a range of support services to people living with sight loss, their families and carers. Services include gym at Portway, aqua fit, indoor wall climbing and other health and wellbeing programmes. We offer social support and trips out for visually impaired people aged 50+ and younger people under 30. This, together with members’ meetings, newsletter and campaigning and consultation work with the public and private sectors makes us a group to reckon with.
What is your proudest achievement?
We are proud that in the space of ten years we have grown from only 12 members to 500 and have not lost our user led ethos – a big achievement in these times of cuts. Indeed, in the last 12 months we have not only maintained existing services but have, with Sandwell Talking News, successfully re-launched an audio weekly newspaper delivery to visually impaired Sandwell residents.
What is your experience of support received from SCVO?
SCVO has supported SVI from the outset, with help to create a constitution and business plan, develop policies and identify further funding.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt about working with people in Sandwell?
Sandwell people are generous and we have learned that everyone has something to offer given the opportunity to grow. How important that can be to someone who feels their life might be over because of sight loss. SVI has given a lifeline to people who have gone on to flourish in a way that initially seemed impossible – this is not only because of SVI as an organisation but due to its user led strength; unbeatable!
SVI is proud of our Sandwell roots. There have been many changes over the years but generally, we have found Council officers supportive and have established meaningful partnerships and true friends both within and outside the Council.
What are your plans for the future and some of the challenges you face?
Although strong, SVI now faces our biggest challenge so far. We are a small organisation with a large ambition but without a bigger office or space to develop we are like a plant confined by a small pot, unable to grow.
We also need more volunteers, including:
• a Volunteer Co-ordinator to help build our volunteer base – this is an exciting and challenging volunteering role and you will be at the forefront of our developing volunteer services.
• an Activities Co-ordinator to help organise trips, days out and social events to people living with sight loss.
Other volunteering opportunities are available – we welcome sighted friends to join us.
How can SCVO help to support your organisation in the future?
SCVO and fellow VSOs can help by keeping a look out for any spare office space, or better still a resource centre, that can give us scope to develop our much needed services. You can help us find volunteers and continue to provide warm and friendly advice, support and guidance we need as we further develop our services.
If you believe in user led services and want to help, please contact the SVI Office. Call 0121 525 4810, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.sandwellvisuallyimpaired.org.uk
A warm welcome awaits you.