International Volunteer Day, 5 December, is an opportunity for us to acknowledge and thank our volunteers for their support and contribution to enabling our clients to live life without limits.

Our volunteers are diverse and assist with recreational activities, vision support, guide dogs, fundraising events, library activities and many more.

Read about some of our volunteers below:

Stewart playing with a guide dog puppy in training.Gord Stewart, Auckland, Guide Dog Breeding Centre Volunteer

Gord is a new volunteer at the Guide Dog Breeding Centre. You’ll see him playing with cute puppies but there’s more going on that meets the eye – he’s undertaking the important task of socialising them. Little puppies benefit hugely from this before they go out in the big world to our puppy raisers. Gord also helps with water-blasting around the site, power washing kennels, trimming hedges, and cutting and fitting mats and carpets for the vans. One of Gord’s roles is to transport dog food to the Albany office once a month and our dogs have unanimously voted this to be the most important role.

Gord is a writer with his own monthly column in the NZME regional daily papers; he often finds a way to feature Guide Dogs in his writing. What a versatile volunteer.

Ron Hainsworth, Whanganui, Talking Book Volunteer

Ron Hainsworth relaxing with a hot drink.Ron has volunteered for us for 45 years! He has been a talking book volunteer and seen the evolution from reel-to-reel Grundig tape recorder with the ever-twisting tapes to the TELEX tapes, then the DAISY CD player and now the digital DAISY Direct and Alexa, Amazon’s smart speaker. Ron’s commitment to his role has enabled him to adapt to all the changes and technology and deliver the same level of service to every client he meets. Over the years he has found that no matter what style of talking book machine is introduced, a client often faces the fear of ‘damaging it’. Ron feels a sense of satisfaction when he watches the “client cross the journey from reticence to self-confidence and the enjoyment derived from listening to the books and magazines”. Our staff and clients have a huge amount of respect for his wisdom and knowledge.

What has made Ron carry on for 45 years? “Meeting new people, gaining their trust and friendship, encouraging them to become confident and competent”.

Alison Miller, Auckland, Collage Book Volunteer

Alison Miller, smiling.Alison has volunteered for 12 years at Blind Low Vision Education Network New Zealand (BLENNZ) based in Homai, South Auckland once a week to make tactile books for children. These books go into the Youth Library at BLENNZ which then distributes them all around the country. Alison loves this role as she feels, “reading is so important to everyone and this enables stories to be brought to life for the children and it is so much fun and so rewarding as we see each book develop”.  While Alison claims her contribution is small, we are aware of the amount of effort that goes into making a single tactile book.

Her motivations for volunteering come from a personal connection to the organisation which she wants to give back to.

“Volunteering for Blind & Low Vision NZ is of particular interest to me as I grew up with two sisters who had very poor sight and they lost their sight completely as they grew older. Both came to benefit from having several guide dogs. The assistance they have received from Blind & Low Vision NZ (formerly Blind Foundation) over the years has been much appreciated and has helped them immensely. Much of this assistance comes from volunteers assisting the professional staff”.

Thank you Alison for bringing smiles to the faces of children who are blind or have low vision with your tactile book making skills.

Diana Stannard, Napier , Social Group Volunteer

Diana Stannard standing in front of a garden and treesDiana began volunteering in 2005 and presently coordinates the Napier Social Group by arranging activities for a diverse group of clients. She has recently started taking a small group to Operatunity (a travelling stage show that comes to Hawke’s Bay) for a daytime concert and lunch.  Through Diana’s enthusiasm and organisation skills, this group has grown to 20 clients, with support from other volunteers.  Diana is a valuable connection between Blind & Low Vision NZ staff and clients and works autonomously, leading other volunteers to seamlessly run activities. Diana goes above and beyond when she visits clients, wishes them happy birthday and takes flowers to clients turning 100.

“I get huge satisfaction from knowing, no matter what I do, big or small, that the members really appreciate it’.

Emmanuel Lowen, Auckland, Organisational Volunteer

Emmanuel Lowen, leaning against the Blind & Low Vision NZ sign.Emmanuel, our organisational volunteer, first got involved with Blind & Low Vision NZ through a friend who worked here. He had known her since high school and was aware of the amazing impact the organisation has on the lives of their clients. During his time at Blind & Low Vision NZ he has worked with a variety of staff and clients “that have enriched my life as well as the people that I am helping”. His experience has included helping the library with the installation of Alexa in clients’ homes for the use of talking books; helping the recreation team with the development of an exercise book that will be converted to large print and braille. He also enjoys the opportunity to use his technology background by helping to set up AV equipment for meetings and inductions. “I have found my time at Blind & Low Vision NZ to be both challenging and rewarding. Get involved – it is great”, says Emmanuel.

Sharon Richardson, Hastings, Fundraising Appeal Street Collection Coordinator, Skydive participant

Photograph caption: Person free falling through the air.Hastings volunteer Sharon has been coordinating the local street collection in her city for four years. As part of this role Sharon contacts volunteer collectors, creates rosters, and makes sure everything runs smoothly on the day. It’s a big job! Sharon was drawn to volunteering with Blind & Low Vision NZ because she has a background in both nursing and supporting people with disabilities – plus, a big love of dogs.

As if organising the local street collection wasn’t enough, Sharon took on a rather exhilarating challenge this year – the Blind & Low Vision NZ Skydive! Sharon has been busy fundraising and will be experiencing her first tandem skydive this weekend, jumping over beautiful Taupō. Thank you for everything you do, Sharon.

If you’re keen to get involved and join our volunteering whanau, check out our volunteer vacancies here.