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Three cheers for volunteers

30 November 2006
Media release

Three cheers for volunteers – the Foundation of the Blind salutes its unpaid army

At 71 years old, Val is one of thousands of volunteers who are making a difference to the lives of blind, deafblind and vision-impaired New Zealanders.

With 49 years of volunteering under her belt, Val is still going strong and is considered an integral part of the RNZFB network in the Waikato.

"I started helping out with blind bowls in 1957 and it grew from there," explains Val.
"The time has just flown by. I don't think I've done anything special, I just see a need and then fill it.

"It's really important that people get involved in their communities, not only for the nice company, but otherwise people miss out on things. I transport blind people around to bowls or to socials otherwise they just wouldn't be able to go.

"As long as I can drive then I'll carry on."

International Volunteer Day is a United Nations initiative which started in 1985 and is celebrated throughout the world on December 5 every year.

The RNZFB depends on over 16,000 volunteers every year who help with a wide variety of tasks. The skills and interests of each person are matched to work that fits with their other commitments.

"Without this army of people the Foundation of the Blind would definitely struggle in helping blind New Zealanders remain or regain their independence," says Mary Schnackenberg, Divisional Manager Adaptive Support, RNZFB.

"Each year around 1.5 million hours are volunteered. To put a dollar figure on it, volunteers contribute at least $15.7 million annually - this equates to an estimated 823 full-time-equivalent jobs!"

The RNZFB is always looking for volunteers so put your hand up to help!

Some of the many ways that volunteers can help members include:
• Driving members to and from eye-related appointments and RNZFB activities
• Recording local news and information onto the RNZFB's Telephone Information Service (TIS)
• Assisting with recreation and social activities
• Providing short-term shopping assistance
• Delivering talking book machines
• Being part of a telephone tree
• Providing support for Foundation services
• Reading mail to members
• Being a puppy walker or guide dog breeding stock guardian
• Helping with local fundraising projects

To find out more about supporting blind, deafblind and vision-impaired people in your community phone 0800 24 33 33 and ask to be put in touch with your local Volunteer Co-ordinator.

The RNZFB is the primary provider of vision-related rehabilitation services to 11,700 blind, deafblind and vision-impaired New Zealanders.

Just one-third of the RNZFB's $22m annual operating budget comes from Government sources. The RNZFB has to fundraise the rest.


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