Education Through Volunteering - Shruti Shravah's Story
For nearly a century, CNIB has continued to be a quintessential asset for the blind and partially sighted community. However, the wonderful services it provides would not be possible without the collaborative efforts of its generous donors and dedicated staff and volunteers. As a result of my vision loss, I consider my experience at CNIB to be rather unique since I am both a client and volunteer.
I began volunteering at CNIB in January 2014. The decision to do so was heavily inspired by my desire to give back to the organization that had helped me so much. I co-facilitated the Vision Mate training workshop. The Vision Mate Program is a key service CNIB offers, and it solely consists of volunteers. Its purpose is to pair up a sighted volunteer with a blind or partially sighted client for about two hours per week. The sighted peer’s duties can range from taking clients for walks to grocery shopping to reading them their mail. It is an essential service, especially for clients who are seniors and/or living on their own. As a CNIB client, my primary job was to train volunteers on how to interact with and what to expect from their blind and partially sighted “mates”. I also shared my own story and experiences with them which they found very interesting and inspiring. More importantly, I was able to put them at ease with regards to their vision mate role.
I still co-facilitate this workshop, which has now expanded to include all volunteers at CNIB. The sighted guide training, which used to be a separate session, is now included within the general volunteer orientation. I also assist with this area by demonstrating how it works. Many volunteers have told me that seeing how sighted guiding is conducted with a blind or partially sighted client has really eased their nervousness and made them more comfortable with the prospect of doing it with their clients!
In October 2016, I expanded my duties by volunteering to come in once a week as a Reception Assistant in the Vancouver office. I really enjoy answering phone calls and assisting clients on the phone and in person.
Overall, my volunteer experience at CNIB continues to be rewarding and enjoyable. I am glad that I have helped educate other volunteers about the struggles and accomplishments of those with vision loss. With my recent appointment on the Advisory Board, I plan to further my contributions and use my experiences to enhance the essential and wonderful services CNIB offers.
Volunteering for this non-profit organization is an amazing opportunity! It allows for both social and intellectual growth and is highly rewarding.