Freddie is a 22 year old student doing a year in industry in Newcastle. He was keen to put his spare time to good use by volunteering for Deafblind UK. He said:
“After starting work in Newcastle I realised that I might have a few spare hours each week and I wanted to try and do something positive with that time. My sister also volunteers with Deafblind UK as a tele-befriender and she recommended I look up volunteering opportunities through do-it.org. I saw a role as a home and social befriender for a member who likes going to the theatre, going for walks and just wanted a bit more company – perfect!
“I could only give a few hours a week and so I doubted that would be enough to be taken on as a volunteer. I wanted to try anyway because I thought even an hour or two was an hour or two more than this member was currently getting. Luckily for me, Deafblind UK said yes and that they had paired the two of us together – so started my time with Laurel.
“Laurel and I would meet up for one evening each week to do anything from going for a coffee and a walk by the coast, to watching musicals at the theatre. Either way it usually involved cake! Also I’m a big fan of dogs so when Laurel got a beautiful new guide dog, Tasha, then this befriending business definitely became as much for my benefit as anyone else’s!
“The best thing about being a volunteer befriender is having the opportunity to learn about someone who I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise; who has had a completely different life to mine. Good vision is something that many of us are lucky enough to have and that we take for granted. So learning about what it’s like for someone who doesn’t have that privilege is fascinating.
“What was more impressive though was seeing how it doesn’t hold people back; right now Laurel is exploring Iceland with a group of other partially-sighted people. It has certainly given me a new perspective.
“As life mentor Joey from ‘Friends’ says, there’s no such thing as a selfless good deed – I gained so much through meeting Laurel, hearing her story and learning more about deafblindness. We had a lot of laughs early on because I wasn’t the best guide, but we got there in the end! I am lucky to have met Laurel but there are a thousand other people out there in a similar position who just want a bit of company.
“It’s been a completely new experience which, luckily for me, didn’t need any skills or previous experience.”