Jacob (22), from Swansea, lost most of his sight suddenly and unexpectedly in 2011.  At the time he was studying public services at Gower College, Swansea, and was keen to join the police force.  However, his loss of sight meant that his career plans were dramatically halted.  After some soul searching he then began a work placement with the RNIB which was very successful. Following a presentation at the RNIB from the Inspired Action Engagement Worker about the Inspired Action Project, he was referred to the British Red Cross. 

Jacob then began volunteering for the Red Cross two days a week in the Swansea office, and soon became a valued member of the team.  He undertakes tasks such as managing the main switchboard and the ‘duty desk’ whereby support workers check in and out of every visit they make.  He also deals with the post and logs all mail that comes in and out of the office, as well as all other administrative duties.  Jacob’s sight difficulties have not prevented Jacob from doing any tasks; it has just meant that people have had to think differently about how tasks can be done. 

During his time with the Red Cross, Jacob has become a lot more confident in himself and in his own abilities and is now more aware of how much he can bring to an organisation.  Whereas before he joined he was not very confident and was quite downhearted about his employment prospects, he is now very good at dealing with older people and speaking on the telephone – two things he was very scared about back in September.  He even attended the Inspired Action Learning Event in London where he spoke about volunteering and his experience with us.  He was so inspired by the other young people around him at that event that he left saying that he wanted to attend ‘ReDefined’ (youth conference) in Scarborough – a 7 hour train journey and an overnight stay.  Jacob has been a valuable asset to the Red Cross and has enjoyed his time with us so much that he is now staying on past his 6 months of Inspired Action.

Janet John, Senior Services Manager in Swansea said “From my point of view, I have been delighted to have him here.  It has shown the staff what someone with ‘disabilities’ is capable of… it has been really positive.  The software that he is using has been a real surprise to the staff- they didn’t know that that sort of thing was available and therefore how easy it is for someone who is blind or partially sighted to have a positive contribution.

The equipment that Jacob was using for his volunteer role was on loan to us from the RNIB, but after 6 months they requested it be returned. The equipment, a ‘zoom text magnifier’ was essential for Jacob to be able to continue to contribute as a volunteer. Thanks to the funding from Spirit of 2012, we were able to purchase the package, which will be available to Jacob for as long as he requires it, and it will stay with the organisation after he has progressed, enabling more volunteers and staff with visual impairments to be part of our team.