International Volunteer Day is coming up on the 5 December, and to recognise this special day, we are sharing some stories from a few of our amazing volunteers.

Kumera planting in TaranakiGreen Volunteers in Taranaki!

Graham and Val Mosen have a very productive property. A patch of their vegetable garden is set aside for the Taranaki blind gardeners’ group to plant and grow kumara and potatoes. The group is keen to support those with reduced vision to enjoy gardening in an accessible way.

Graham, who has lost a lot of his vision, is an amazing problem solver, and uses ropes to guide digging and planting in straight rows. Graham and Val harvested the kumara during lockdown, and the produce was later shared amongst those who helped with the planting. There was a celebration at the end of lockdown with a mid-winter Christmas dinner at the New Plymouth Blind Centre. Several staff and volunteers prepared the meal, and two blind musicians provided the entertainment. Val and Graham’s lovely contribution of roasted pumpkin was home-grown.

Dale Johnson, Copyholder VolunteerOur Long Distance Braille Copyholder – Dale Johnson

Dale Johnson has been volunteering with Blind Low Vision NZ’s Accessible Formats team as a copyholder since 2018. He works alongside Leyna Coleman, Blind Low Vision NZ Braille proofreader in the Auckland office. Dale reads aloud the print version and Leyna simultaneously uses her fingertips to make sure there are no errors in the Braille version. This has always been done face-to-face in Awhina House. However, the COVID-19 lockdown caused everyone to think differently. In August, Dale and Leyna trialed copyholding in a unique way. Using Zoom and print material provided electronically, the pair was able to fulfill the copyholding demands from home. Dale and Leyna are a versatile team. If you happen to be around them, you will catch phrases from popular novels, or find yourself listening to a complex algebraic formula. Somedays, they even try their hand at some classical music! Their willingness to try the remote copyholding method has paved the way for more such opportunities in the future.

“We are very grateful to volunteers like Dale for working with our teams to produce accessible formats for the blind and low vision community of New Zealand”, says Leyna.

Blanche DavidsonBlanche Davidson – Blind Low Vision staff member who volunteers in her free time

Blanche Davidson Senior Administrator at the Fale Kotuku office in South Auckland and recently Auckland Community and Volunteer Coordinator role signed up to become an Alexa volunteer. Here is the story in Blanche’s own words…

I was part of the initial Alexa trial in 2018 where a group of BLVNZ clients received an Alexa. I enjoyed the trial and it made sense to become a volunteer to provide this service to other clients. Off the top of my head, I think I have done 10 visits to clients’ homes so far.

I enjoy working with Diana Morse, Library Volunteer Coordinator and Collections Librarian who provides me with training. Once Alexa is set up, training someone to use it is very simple. I would love to commit more time to setting up Alexas because I love connecting with our clients. I enjoy training others to ask Alexa for the time, set reminders and alarms, check the weather, play music and listen to books before bed.

I would like to tell other clients Alexa can be a great friend when there is nothing to do or no one to talk to. There are numerous Skills and Games to keep me entertained for hours. I enjoyed reading the Harry Potter stories.

Are you interested in becoming a Blind Low Vision NZ volunteer? Find out more about volunteer opportunities here.