Alyson Evans, aged 61, is rebuilding her confidence and fitness by stepping out with her own personal sighted guide.
Alyson, a former nurse on the dementia ward in Cefn Coed Hospital, lost her sight in her right eye nine years ago and more recently in her left, after a build-up of pressure led to glaucoma.
“It’s left me unable to read or write,” said Alyson. “I had worked all my life and been independent, so I had to adjust.”
Alyson was put in touch with Guide Dogs, which was actively expanding its My Guide scheme in Swansea. She was paired with Irene Davies, a trained sighted guide, and the pair drew up a plan of walks and social activities.
“Walking with Irene gives me confidence,” said Alyson. “I’m working on regaining my fitness levels and getting a long cane.”
Irene, a former volunteer with the Stroke Association, originally applied to be part of the My Guide scheme after reading an appeal by Guide Dogs in the paper. She qualified as a guide two years ago, and Alyson is her second client.
“We’ve drawn up a list of fitness goals and things we can do through the winter,” said Irene. “We were out for three hours last week, but the commitment could be as little as an hour a week.
“I think of myself as a human guide dog who can describe things as we go along. I feel I am doing something for the community. I worked all my life and now I feel I want to put something back.”
Alyson and Irene share a love of conversation. “When I start talking I can’t stop,” said Alyson. “Irene’s husband can’t believe she’s got competition!”
Steve Kersley of Guide Dogs Cymru said identifying the right volunteers is vital, as the scheme involves working closely with adults who have a visual impairment.
He said: “We take care to get the right match of personality and interests. A volunteer might only give an hour a week, but it needs to be a regular commitment.” Volunteers receive specialist training in practical sighted guiding to enable them to form successful and confident partnership. Further training focuses on improving communication skills and overcoming barriers to independence.
Steve added: “Volunteers say they get great satisfaction from helping a visually impaired person to become more mobile. They are learning new skills that transfer well to the workplace, and the qualifications can be added to a CV.”
Volunteers aged 18-plus are currently needed for clients in Swansea, Llanelli and Neath.
To find out more, ring Steve Kersley on 07785 907728 or email: