Invercargill Blind Foundation recognises its unsung heroes
Every morning at 6am Southland man Alan Swallow gets out of bed, has breakfast and reads the paper.
And for that he is an unsung hero.
When he reads The Southland Times in the morning, he reads it aloud and records it for people who are visually impaired.
The Blind Foundation provides its members with the Telephone Information Service (TIS) which has articles from more than 70 newspapers, radio and TV schedules, finance information, public and government notices and updates from the Blind Foundation.
For 17 years Swallow has read the paper for the TIS service.
He is also the volunteer coordinator for the TIS service in Invercargill.
In the early days of the service someone would head down to the local studio to record the news for the day and they had one chance to get it right, Swallow said. Nowadays, the news readers can work from home using their phone.
The TIS service is available 365 days a year, and it could sometimes take him an hour to get through the local news items he had chosen, he said.
“It doesn’t take much effort, but it does take a commitment because people are relying on it.”
The service had struggled for some time with volunteers because it was a service not many people knew about.
“If people knew what it did and who’ll benefit from it we would get more volunteers.”
It was satisfying to know that people were benefiting from what he was doing, Swallow said.
“It’s a good way to start the day.”
For Blind Foundation social function organiser Liz Anstice, the opportunity to give back to a foundation that had given much to her, was a nice aspect of the role.
“It’s nice to be giving back to the foundation which has given so much to me.”
Anstice took on the role two years ago.
She said the biggest challenge was building the trust that people had in the local branch of the foundation.
Anstice reformed the social committee group and changed things up so people did not get bored, she said.
“The socials are growing nicely with the members that are coming along.”
The Christmas functions had been so well received members from the Blind Foundation in Balclutha were coming down for them, Anstice said.
However, sometimes getting members to the events was a challenge because of a lack of volunteers available to transport them, she said.
Anstice also manages the Red Puppy Appeal street collection and the appeal during Blind Week.
She was blown away by the number of volunteers she had during the puppy appeal and had to find extra spots for collectors, she said.
She has been involved with the foundation for five years after she became visually impaired.
In February Anstice travelled to Auckland for the Blind Foundation Star Awards as she was a finalist for the Volunteer Recognition Award.
She did not win the top prize, but walked away with a highly commended certificate.
She had not realised how much work she had done until they read out her achievements, she said.