THE EDITOR: In observation of International Day for Persons with Disabilities on December 3 and International Day for Volunteers today, I write to recognise the many volunteers who assisted me throughout the 31 plus years in which I was employed with the TT Blind Welfare Association. I held the post of welfare officer and acted as executive officer for 17 months during my tenure.
The cadre of volunteers who gave of their invaluable time throughout the many years contributed to greatly my successes. Periodically, I would have advertised in the daily newspapers for people to volunteer their time to read, accompany clients with vision impairment to groceries, stores, outings, medical appointments.
After initial interviews, volunteers would either be introduced to assist the blind and vision impaired and/or attend a volunteer training programme at the association. During their scheduled times, volunteers read directly to the Braille transcribers who transcribe printed texts for mainstream students in the education system. Volunteers served as guides when requests were made by clients for assistance.
Though many volunteers assisted me throughout my time as a welfare officer, it is my inclination to recognise them all but desire to highlight people who stayed with me for many years:
One of my earliest volunteers who gave of his time over many years was Mr Townsend, as he was known to me. He had recently retired and responded to an advertisement. He did not only read but through communication and encouragement he helped me to gain confidence in myself. He was the positive re-enforcement for gaining that confidence and self-esteem which led me to my first promotion at the association in 1989.
The late Roslyn Mc Namara gave of her time upon retirement from the public service. She responded faithfully on a weekly basis to read until she was unable to continue. Through her volunteerism, she became in tune with the needs of the blind and vision impaired, which led her to serve on the board of the association.
June Balla was another volunteer who assisted in reading and accompanied me when there was related work to be conducted around Port-of-Spain and its environs. One can say that Balla was a counsellor to me during part of my life’s journey.
Jill Richards was introduced to me when her cousin, June Balla, could no longer continue with her volunteer services due to other matters. Later, when Richards was blessed with a vehicle, she was encouraged by a dear friend to drive me to any field work or personal requests which I may have had within reason.
Margaret Dean was an elder person who volunteered weekly for many years until she could no longer do so. However, we remained friends via the phone.
Basdeo Seeram must be recognised for the many hours spent editing my writings for publications over the years.
Sirberti Scott started to read to me during the days when schools had a two-shift system. We go back many, many years and became friends to the present.
The late Mariana Lee Ha came to the association to volunteer her time upon her retirement from the public service. Within a short time she became my personal guide and accompanied me when I travelled on the job. She stayed with me over 20-plus years. We covered the coasts, villages and towns throughout TT. She occupied her time this way over the years and was my friend until her sun set on Christmas Day in 2018.
We are not an island onto ourselves. One time or another we are interdependent and require assistance from others. Volunteers have great impact on those people they serve. There must be that love to want to serve and to want to donate time in as volunteers. Personally, my life has been richer and increased in experience through the selfless acts of the many volunteers who impacted my life. I owe much of my successes to their countless hours of volunteerism.
On behalf of the many clients who I have had contact with over the years, we celebrate all volunteers for their selfless service during our life journeys. Happy International Volunteer Day to all volunteers. I thank you with much appreciation.