Light shines in darkness

CNIB Volunteers with Vision brighten lives of many Calgarians

Every Monday morning, Judy McPherson waits patiently for her friend Shelley Darr to pick her up so they can go to aquasize together. McPherson loves these days; it allows her to get out of her apartment for a bit. McPherson relies heavily on Darr for this and because McPherson has never actually seen Darr, their relationship is built solely on trust. McPherson requires her assistance because she is legally blind. McPherson, 82, found Darr, 38, through Volunteers with Vision, a program put on by the CNIB, which brings volunteers and the blind together. The two met before Christmas and have become fast friends. McPherson appreciates all of Darr’s help. “I had been waiting for a volunteer to arrive for quite some time - a year in fact. So Shelley and I had a meeting to see if we were compatible and I am so happy that CNIB found her for me. It’s good because now I can get out a bit and actually do some exercise” said McPherson.

“Maybe I can even talk Shelley into going to aquasize twice a week” McPherson said laughing. McPherson was living in Winnipeg when her husband passed away. Her daughter convinced her to move out to Calgary, so McPherson made the move in 1996. She immediately required some assistance and found a volunteer through CNIB. Things worked out well for her – the volunteer assisted her with shopping and they went for walks together. To this day, that volunteer still takes McPherson shopping. McPherson has been using CNIB ever since.

“I really feel as though I have made some great friends through this program and CNIB.” McPherson said.
Darr, a lunchroom supervisor at a school for Aboriginal children, has found it very satisfying to volunteer and gets as much satisfaction out of their relationship as McPherson does.

“I have a cousin who is blind with a guide dog and so I have a little bit of background with him and seeing what his needs were. So I really feel that Judy and I are a good fit. I see what it is doing for her and it is very rewarding," Darr said.

Volunteers with Vision officially began in September of 2006 and has successfully matched about 10 blind individuals with volunteers. Pat Swan, the volunteer coordinator for southern Alberta at CNIB, said the program has proved to be very effective.

“CNIB did a survey of its clients to find out what people's needs were and the majority responded that they needed help with every day things like getting around, accessing community services, doctor's  appointments and those sorts of things. It's really important when transportation is an issue and you need a guide, especially if that person lives alone," Swan said.

"And specifically with Judy, she had been wanting to take aquasize for quite awhile but without a volunteer it would be too difficult."

McPherson holds a lot of respect for those that volunteer their time, and acknowledges how much her volunteers and CNIB have helped her over the years. McPherson hopes that others will become more proactive in volunteering and get the same satisfaction out of helping someone that she gets from receiving that help.