Meet Graham. Graham is recently retired, and is a volunteer at CNIB in Ottawa. He has volunteered with CNIB for a number of years, but has been working at the CNIB Ottawa store for the past six months. In the absence of an official title, he refers to himself as an “Apprentice Store Keeper.”
Q: What compelled you to start volunteering at CNIB?
G : More than anything else, personal connection brought me here. Since I have my own vision difficulties—albeit relatively minor—I felt that I could relate in a small way to some of the frustrations and issues experienced by people with vision loss. When I decided to volunteer, I made a list of all the things I wanted to both give and gain from my experience. When it came to thinking about volunteering for CNIB, it fit right into the type of experience I was looking for.
Q: In what capacity have you volunteered with CNIB?
G: I was active with CNIB several years ago, delivering talking-book machines to clients and helping them learn how to operate them and order tapes from the CNIB Library. I also used to visit regularly with two clients through the “Friendly Visitor” program. They were both very rewarding experiences, on many levels.
Q: What makes you continue volunteering? Was the experience what you expected?
G: For many reasons, I previously had to stop volunteering. I came back once I retired and had more time because I have been the beneficiary of volunteer work and I felt as though this would be a great opportunity for me to give back in some way. It has been everything I expected and more: CNIB is very professional in its treatment of volunteers regarding the quality and warmth of its support, in making sure that we are comfortable in what we are doing and are trained properly and using our skills to advantage. I much look forward to my Tuesday afternoons.
Q: What has been the best experience you’ve had during your time at CNIB?
G: There have been far too many experiences over the years for me to note just one! The staff here are so lovely to be around. Clients who come in to visit are almost invariably so pleasant and positive. It all makes me feel really lucky to be able to help, even in a small way like introducing clients to a new product or making them aware of a service that could have a positive impact on their quality of life. I guess my “best” experience has been my overall experience, in a way.
Q: Is there anything you would like others to know about volunteering with CNIB?
G: I really wish that people understood the many rewards that can come from volunteering here. For a volunteer it provides very direct experience in learning from how others cope with adversity, so often with grace and good humour: every day I have worked in the store has provided at least one such lesson. That sure provides a certain perspective on the world and one’s place in it. More importantly, from the perspective of CNIB clients, CNIB provides valuable services that, even though they enable people with vision to do things that the rest of us take for granted, are, amazingly, not provided elsewhere—and it has to have volunteers to be able to do its work.
Thank you to Graham, who took the time to share his experiences as a CNIB volunteer. If Graham’s story has inspired you, and you are interested in volunteering, get involved! You can also call 1-800-563-2642 and ask to be connected with your local volunteer coordinator who can provide you with more information. Join our team of amazing volunteers today!