Volunteers needed in South Okanagan for CNIB program

Vision Mates program pairs up volunteers with sight-impaired clients

Penticton woman Irene Warlow is one a handful of visually-impaired people  in the South Okanagan who are seeking to be buddied up with a volunteer who can lend them their eyes for just a couple hours a week.

Penticton woman Irene Warlow is one a handful of visually-impaired people in the South Okanagan who are seeking to be buddied up with a volunteer who can lend them their eyes for just a couple hours a week.

Some kind-hearted volunteers are being sought to lend their eyes and their time to help others.

The Vision Mates program, operated by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, pairs up volunteers with sight-impaired clients for whom an extra set of eyes can come in handy.

A handful of helpers is needed in the South Okanagan, where a few people like Irene Warlow have been waiting for over a year to be matched up. And it’s not like she’s asking for much: “just to go for a walk.”

“I’ve kind of lost my confidence over the years,” said Warlow. “Penticton is not a very good place to be walking if you can’t see very well, because (drivers) just don’t want to stop for you.”

The 77-year-old, who was born visually impaired, lives on her own and has three daughters in Penticton who help her with day-to-day tasks like grocery shopping, but she’d like to find someone with whom she can just stroll and socialize.

That’s a pretty typical request, said Carrie Broughton, the CNIB’s volunteer co-ordinator for the Southern Interior.

Other clients have requested help with reading or grocery shopping, while another recently asked to be hooked up with a volunteer who would go tandem bicycling with her.

“That was a pretty specific requirement and would require (a volunteer) who’s into a more physical lifestyle,” Broughton said.

Vision Mates volunteers must undergo a fairly rigorous screening process that includes an interview, plus reference and criminal-record checks.

“It has to be that way because of the population we’re serving,” Broughton said.

Those volunteers who are approved for service then receive some in-person training before being paired up with a client whose needs or interests match their own.

“It really can change their lives so dramatically,” Broughton said, “just that few hours a week.”

Volunteer applications can be found at www.cnib.ca. For more information check the website or contact Broughton at 250-763-1191, or carrie.broughton@cnib.ca.