My volunteering experience at Henshaws

Manchester student Maram Mansour talks about her rewarding experience volunteering for northern charity Henshaws in this blog.

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Volunteering is one of the most helpful and rewarding things you can do with your time. You build up soft skills, learn new things and have boost your CV. I found it even more rewarding to volunteer for a charity dedicated to providing help to visually impaired individuals.

I started volunteering at Henshaws almost a year ago now. The role was simple: help out at the demo desk at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital. The volunteers try to have the desk set up at least once a week.

At the demo desk, you explain what Henshaws does and give out information leaflets about eye problems, such as glaucoma and AMD. We also have leaflets on different ways people with visual impairments can receive support in many aspects of life, such as leisure and work. The desk also has objects on display that can help people with visual impairments perform day to day tasks more independently, such as talking weighing scales and even an afro comb for chopping vegetables.

We also guide anyone who needs extra help and support to our patient support officer, who would goes into much more detail about the services available for individuals.

It’s been useful to get to know about the different ways everyday tasks can be altered to meet the needs of people with visual impairments, as some patients I might meet in the future could benefit from this knowledge too. I’ve also recently completed my Visual Impairment Awareness Training, where I gained a better insight into a visually impaired individual’s perspective. I was taught how to differentiate between different canes and how to guide people on the streets and inside a building.

Volunteering for Henshaws has also allowed me to better understand how people with visual impairments cope with day-to-day challenges, be they sight related or even discrimination issues, which are not brought up very often and need to be voiced more than they are! It shocked me when I found out that only around 27% of working age people with a visual impairment are in work.

I continue to enjoy volunteering for Henshaws because I work with and meet many amazing and friendly individuals from different backgrounds, all with interesting stories to share. It’s incredibly rewarding to hear that because you’ve introduced someone to these services, they are now living a happier life. 

Maram Mansour
Student rep, The University of Manchester

Maram is a second year optometry student at the University of Manchester. Her favourite thing about studying optometry is learning clinical techniques and finding ways to adapt these techniques for all kinds of patients. And the eye puns that get cornea and cornea every day (SEE what EYE did there). Her least favourite thing is when the clinics are too full to practise in. You are most likely to find Maram in the library or the clinics. If she wasn't an optometry student, Maram would probably be studying physics.