For the last 18 months I have been giving lifts to people attending Cam Sight’s rural and emotional support groups. For me it has been a voyage of discovery, and also one of great enjoyment and interest.
The composition of the groups has been hugely diverse – in age, disability, mental state, personal interests, severity of sight impairment, and ambition. From teenagers to pensioners, from the poorest and most disadvantaged to the well-off, from the morose and inhibited to the outgoing and effervescent, from copers to strugglers, from the lonely to the socially adept. However, they all seemed to have various things in common: a need to come to terms with their sight impairment (and possibly a need to face the prospect of losing their sight altogether), a desire to lead as far as possible a life of independence and normality, and a determination to seek ways of improving their lot.
As a driver, I merely observe people “before” and “after” their visits to such groups. I have never attended one of these groups so I do not know what magic is woven by the Bridgets, Julies, Paulas, Annettes, and Helens at these Cam Sight sessions. However, I do notice the apparent effects and am continually amazed by the results. I cannot recall any one of my passengers expressing anything less than enthusiasm when taking them home afterwards.
If I am allowed to be non-PC and to generalise, here are some “before” and “after” observations.
Teenagers: bored, dispirited, self-centred, feeling sorry for themselves
Middle-aged men barely coping: depressed, despondent, worried about the future, lacking in confidence
Middle-aged men coping quite well: wondering whether the session was going to be a waste of their time
Teenagers: enervated, garrulous, enjoyed themselves, more positive about the future, talking about other people (not about themselves), developing the ability to be more objective (though they are not aware of that fact)
Middle-aged men barely coping: surprised by the things that they can do, encouraged by the prospect of being able to do more than they thought they would be able to do, grateful to learn from others how better to cope. They also seem to benefit from the prospect of improved social contact and, in many cases, improved social activity that these sessions afford.
Middle-aged men coping quite well: pleased that they went, not in a hurry to admit that they have learnt anything new but pleased that they have had an opportunity to share their experience with others and the satisfaction of being appreciated.
I never ask my passengers what they think of the sessions. I just drive and listen, and marvel at the apparent benefits that accrue simply by bringing together a group of people in a neutral environment, where they can share their experiences – good and bad, where no one is going to be judgmental, and where there is the opportunity to make friends, pick up a domestic hint or two, and learn about a surprising range of opportunities that are available to them for improving their quality of life.
All of my passengers, without exception, heap praises on Cam Sight and the contribution Cam Sight makes to the quality of their lives, be it though their expertise, their caring, or simply the companionship afforded by the support groups. “I wish it didn’t have to end” is the commonest remark I hear about these sessions, which sums it up so much better than any of my ramblings.
PS On re-reading the above, there is one critical and hugely important element that I have omitted to mention: HUMOUR. One of the lovely things about Cam Sight is the good nature and humour that seems to underpin all that they do. Its staff may have lousy husbands, rotten pay, dreadful teenagers, inadequate budgets, overlong hours, or even bunions. But they never miss a chance to have a good laugh – even if it is at my expense – and that is another reason why it is a pleasure to be associated in a small way with their work and with their clients.