Blind Veterans UK volunteer Aileen is retired and, as she lives very close to our training and rehabilitation centre in Brighton, decided to volunteer there.

She says: “After working full time I wanted to fill a hole that was left in my life and to continue to give something back to the community and help people. I chose Blind Veterans UK as I’ve always been aware of the beautiful building in Ovingdean and, as it is right on my doorstep, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

“I had the initial volunteer training where we had to try on some special goggles that simulate different forms of sight loss to see what they’re like which was a really scary experience.

“It just showed me that not everyone with a vision impairment is fully blind and that they all need different support and have their own ways of getting on with day to day life. I also received training on supporting the veterans and understanding their individual needs.”

Aileen’s normal role is to visit our centre once or twice a week. She says: “I normally go to the centre on a Tuesday morning and do whatever is requested of me. I really enjoy helping to cook, do arts and crafts, serve teas and coffees and just sit and have a chat with the blind veterans.

“Every other Saturday we will go on a day trip with the veterans from the Brighton centre. We have been to the aerospace museum, garden centres and parks. We help them on and off the bus and have a good old chin wag on the way there, putting the world to rights."

“When we get to where we are going we will make sure the veterans have a cuppa and then we just do whatever they want us to do to make sure they have a fab day out. We will take them back to their rooms when we get back to the centre and make sure they are settled back in.”

Because of the Coronavirus pandemic, Blind Veterans UK has adapted its service to support its 5,000 beneficiaries, 90% of whom are over 70 and being advised by the Government to self-isolate.

Having to self-isolate, blind veterans need our help right now with daily tasks, such as the shopping, and constant emotional support through this difficult time. Volunteers like Aileen are playing an important role in this.

She says: “Currently I am a telephone befriender during the pandemic and I really love it. I can talk the hind legs off a donkey so I just talk until they have had enough of me. We have some really lovely conversations.”

On her two years volunteering with Blind Veterans UK, Aileen says: “It really is a fantastic charity. The Brighton Centre itself is absolutely fantastic. The veterans have everything they need right there and everyone is just so happy.

“Every day is memorable, I come away feeling like I’m on a cloud. I just fall in love with the veterans and their stories. It just makes me so emotional because all the veterans, and all the things they achieve, really are amazing.”