Deafblind UK is a national charity based in Peterborough. I write for their bi-monthly magazine, Open Hand. Jo Smith, Community and Fundraising Manager, tells us more.
Here’s your elevator pitch: describe what Deafblind UK does and tell me why people should donate!
Deafblind UK supports people to overcome the challenges of living with combined sight and hearing loss. We provide free membership to just over 4,000 deafblind people across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The majority of our members are elderly people with progressive sight and hearing loss in need of support to combat the isolation, loneliness and anxiety this creates.
We provide our members with a range of bespoke services, helping them to live independently and participate in their local communities. Our services include volunteer befrienders, an Information and Advice Line, advocacy, peer support and social groups, a holiday respite scheme and specialist support to access the digital world through new, adaptive technologies. Three of our five Trustees (including our Chair) have combined sight and hearing loss, thereby ensuring that our organisation and services reflect the needs of our members.
How long have you been with Deafblind UK? How did you discover your passion?
I have worked in the third sector now for one and a half years. I was introduced to it via a friend who thought I had the right caring attitude to life and to people. Over that period of time, I have realised that there is a huge grey world out there that no one understands or appreciates and are quite happy to ignore. Most of our members do not have a voice, but I do, so I can champion their rights and their interests.
What’s the biggest challenge facing national charities today?
I feel the uncertain economic climate and pressures on local government funding are putting added pressure on charities, especially charities that look after vulnerable adults like us. The pots of money are drying up and businesses are not thinking long-term about their social responsibilities.
How has working with charities changed since you first started?
GDPR has been introduced which will hit the big charities hardest, due to the size of their databases. I think a lot more charities are getting slicker and becoming like corporations, rather than do-gooders trying to run a business.
What would you tell your 18-year-old self?
Think about others. Think about people who are different. Don’t ignore groups in your local area just because the members have difficulties carrying out all the things you take for granted. Read more and find out about how you can make a difference in your local area.
Three guests are coming for dinner, living or dead. Who do you invite and why?
Winston Churchill – I would love to hear his stories from before and after the war. He was such a clever man; without him our country would not be the place it is today.
Jane Austen – How did she get through writing such amazing novels in a time of such prejudice against women? Where did she get her ideas from, being so sheltered? Would she still be a writer now? If not, what career choice would she have as a modern woman?
William Wallace – What was going through his mind when he decided to go up against the enormous might of the English Army? Where did he get his courage and bravery from? What was it like to feared by such a might and equally afraid to be caught?
What should we be getting excited about for Deafblind UK?
Deafblind Awareness Week is an annual event – this year it runs from June 25 to July 1. We will be carrying out all sorts of fun activities at Deafblind UK’s HQ in Hampton throughout the week, including a Five Sense Challenge for our conference users, staff and members of the public. It should be a blast and a real thought-provoking challenge.
As it is Deafblind UK’s 90th Birthday this year, we will be having a birthday party on June 30. Everyone from the local area is very much welcome to come along from 1-4pm. There will activities such as:
- Helter skelter
- Children’s rides
- Deafblind penalty shootout
- Bouncy castle
- Candy floss cart
- Mobile climbing wall
- Live music
- Mini hand and head massages
- Deafblind driving