Croydon Vision is one of the organisations we support as part of our bid to Open London Up. We recently spoke to one of their volunteers about the unique community of staff, volunteers and members that she’s part of at Croydon Vision. As someone who’s been volunteering at Croydon Vision for 12 years, Maria still gets so much joy from being there. And as Croydon Vision celebrate its Centenary this summer, she’s glad to be part of 100 years of helping local people…
How did you first start volunteering at Croydon Vision?
I used to be a nurse in the eye unit at Croydon University Hospital; part of my job was meeting with the different services that patients might be referred to. One of those was what is now Croydon Vision. I never wanted to retire and do nothing – you’ve got to do something! – so volunteering at Croydon Vision was a natural fit. That was around 12 years ago and I’ve never looked back.
How do you feel about Croydon Vision’s Centenary?
One hundred years of helping people is a huge milestone, it really means a lot! Things have certainly changed since I first knew this place, Susanette (the CEO) has taken it to a whole new level, into the 21st Century. And it’s good! There have been lots of improvements over the years and long may it go on.
What makes Croydon Vision so strong?
Well, we’ve survived cuts, Covid, and so many changes, and we’re still going and offering services to the people. Plus membership is increasing, which is always a good thing. The variety of Croydon Vision’s members is wonderful. My group is mostly made up of over 60s and it goes up to almost 103! Elsie, reached her own centenary during Covid and is still going strong, she comes into Croydon Vision in person occasionally but usually joins us over the phone, she doesn’t like to miss anything!
What are some common misconceptions about blind and partially sighted people?
Well, the good thing is that disability has now become less taboo. But of course, the common misconception is that if you’re blind you can’t do very much. If you go to Croydon Vision you realise – and it’s very humbling – how even with poor or no eyesight, life goes on. All our members have found a different way to live, their sight is missing but they make use of their other senses, and their lives can still be full. And useful too; there are so many people here who’ve joined as members and gone on to find a job or to volunteer. It’s very inspiring. And of course with new technology and all the aids you can use, it’s a marvel. The Resource Centre here is wonderful for that!
If you had a magic wand, what would you add to Croydon Vision?
More funds, that would enable us to have more excursions, they’re very popular. Visits to gardens and concerts are so lovely, and recently I went as a guide to Fairfield Hall to a concert with six of our members, that was great, so we’d love more of those!
Finally, what do you enjoy most about volunteering here?
Being with the members, I just love being in Croydon Vision. It’s as simple as that. It’s the joy I get from being with people here, and I value that a lot. In fact, I love it. It’s the heart that there is in this place that keeps me coming back.
Would you or someone you know like to start volunteering for Croydon Vision? Please do call them on 020 8688 2486 to find out how you can become part of the team.