After 35 years as a Vision Australia volunteer, Stephen Belbin is as passionate as ever about supporting people who are blind or have low vision.
Stephen is now 60 years old and has been blind himself for the majority of his life and embarked on his volunteering journey after taking part in a computer training course with the then Royal Blind Society.
“I was already doing a bit for the Royal Blind Society at that stage but I wanted to pass on the skills I’d picked up at the seminar to people who are blind or have low vision in the local Newcastle region,” Stephen said.
“I started up a small computer group. The success from the group inspired me to continue on as a fully-fledged volunteer,” he said.
Stephen is a Vision Australia client and takes on a number of different volunteer roles, including being part of the Vision Australia Client Reference Group, which supports the organisations board and leadership team.
“I’m also a client engagement volunteer for the Newcastle Hunter region of Vision Australia. This is a role that engages with clients and organisations in the local community to enhance the connection with Vision Australia,” he said.
Volunteering at Vision Australia has undergone some changes in Stephen’s time with the organisation, which he said now makes it more enjoyable than ever
“Staff and volunteers were separated more in the early days. They were communicating but were not as connected with each other as perhaps they could have been.
“Currently staff and volunteers are referred to as one. Any changes within the organisation are communicated to staff and volunteers in an equal and inclusive way.”
Stephen said he has especially enjoyed being part of work to help advocate for the needs of the blind and low vision community and bring about positive change.
“My most enjoyable volunteer experience has been being a part of some of the advocacy that is carried out by Vision Australia on behalf of clients.
“We address challenges such as getting print material into an accessible format and finding accessible teaching resource material within the education sector.”
Stephen also said that volunteering with Vision Australia has greatly increased his confidence. He is now able to use that confidence to help others overcome obstacles in their life.
“I’m glad to be able to share that confidence and encourage other people who are blind or have low vision. I’m totally blind but it doesn’t stop me from doing anything. The sky’s the limit and it’s good being able to share that knowledge with people.
“People who have low vision have the ability to tackle a variety of challenges. I’ve been blind for most of my life and my 35 years of volunteering have taught me to step up to any challenge.”
After nearly four decades Stephen has some handy advice for new Vision Australia volunteers.
“Get a good idea about what areas are available to volunteer in. Don’t limit yourself to one or two areas.
“I believe that the more areas you can be involved in the easier it will be to strengthen your own skills and enjoy the opportunities and advantages of volunteering with Vision Australia.”
To learn about how to become a Vision Australia volunteer, follow this link.