Can you help blind and visually impaired people get out and enjoy a host of leisure activities?
Travelling without clear vision is a challenge service users at Galloway’s Society for the Blind encounter every day. They rely on the charity’s minibuses to get around.
Galloway’s needs £50,000 for a new minibus - and it also needs volunteers to help drive them and support the service users.
Chris Hall, of Kirkham, has been a volunteer driver for 18 months. The 67-year-old says: “I have a friend who is visually impaired and goes on holiday with Galloway’s so I know how useful the charity is. I was looking for voluntary work after my retirement and so I got in touch, asking what they needed help with.
“The volunteer co-ordinator gave me a list of a few things, including being a minibus driver and as I enjoyed driving, I thought I would give it a go.
“On a Tuesday there is a social gathering at the base in Howick Park Avenue, Penwortham. So around 8am I drive the minibus and pick up the service users from their homes with another volunteer and bring them to Howick House. The service users enjoy activities such as crafts, learning IT, cooking and have their lunch. I then take them back to their homes around 2.30pm.
“This summer I have taken people to the cricket club in Mawdesley and I take people to do archery. I even take part myself.
“There are two minibuses to cover all areas across Lancashire and Sefton. The minibuses can take a maximum of 15 people, but it depends if they need extra equipment like walkers. Usually I have between eight and 12 people. They have varying degrees of mobility and visual impairments. Some people need more assistance than others but there is another volunteer with me. I really enjoy meeting new people and making new friends.
“The minibuses are vital to our service users. A lot of the people would not be able to get out and get to Howick House. For some of them it is their only trip out. Most could not go on public transport unless they are with a sighted person and taxis are expensive. It is about the service users having things to look forward to and being able to make new friends.”
Gary West, of Fulwood, is the charity’s newest recruit. The 53-year-old former firefighter who has served across Lancashire, including Preston, Blackpool and Lancaster, says: “As I was getting paid for looking after the public, I felt it would be nice to do unpaid work to help people.
“I attended the business expo at Lancaster Brewery and Galloway’s had a stand there. I spoke to staff and volunteers there and decided to join up.
“People who are visually impaired face a lot of challenges and I thought the least I could do is drive a minibus for them. I really enjoy it.
“As a driver you can also join the service users as they go on trips.
“I would encourage anybody to give up just a couple of hours a day to drive the minibuses. Or if they don’t want to do that, you can volunteer in other ways, such as reading to them or providing them with company.”
Sherry Garstang, volunteer coordinator at Galloway’s, says: “At present we have 10 drivers but four of these are about to retire and so we are looking for some more. The more drivers we have the less we have to rely on the same people. It’s a big commitment and we don’t want to ask to often as it then becomes a chore rather than fun. We desperately need drivers in the Morecombe and Southport area.”
Volunteer drivers need: a full and clean UK driving license; a DBS check and a friendly, helpful manner. Galloway’s provides all drivers with MIDAS mini bus training, basic first aid training and volunteer training.
Galloway’s needs £50,000 for a new minibus to transport its service users to the centre in Penwortham and to social outings.
The Post has launched a campaign - Gallowheels - in conjunction with Galloway’s to raise £50,000.
For previous articles click here https://galloway-s-appeal-minibus-needed-to-help-service-users-get-active-1-8856206
So far, more than £5,000 has been raised. Can you donate any more?
To make a donation visit www.galloways.org.uk/gallowheels; call: 01772 744148 text: GALL25 £amount, £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10, to 70070 or send a cheque payable to Galloway’s to: Galloway’s Society for the Blind, Howick House, Howick Park Avenue, Penwortham, PR1 0LS.