New ways of seeing volunteering

Posted on the 3rd June 2018

As a charity that makes things for disabled people, Remap are utterly dependent on our skilled volunteers for the success of our organisation. We’re a small charity but we have over 900 volunteers in total, organised into more than 70 groups across the country.

The vast majority of our volunteers are volunteer makers. These are people who give up their time and (considerable) skill to make specialised equipment for disabled people where nothing exists on the market. They make wheelchairs you can literally climb mountains in or help people to knit with one hand – all kinds of inventions that help people enjoy life more.

One of our volunteers, Rupert Powell, has made a headset which allows a blind or partially-sighted person to see the world around them. And it all started with a quiet night in front of the telly.

We’d been involved in a TV programme, the Big Life Fix, where professional inventors were coming up with gadgets for disabled people. I’d guess most of the audience would find their inventions pretty awe-inspiring. Rupert thought it looked “relatively easy”. He’d been making kit for friends in his garage for fun, but the programme helped him to realise the positive impact his skills could have on people in his community. He noted our details, got in touch, and was soon at his first meeting.

At this first meeting, Ian’s case was discussed. Ian is a keen football fan who loves the big match atmosphere and spends his weekends at the stadium supporting his local team. He’s also registered blind, which makes following the action impossible. When Rupert joined us, the Remap team in York had been experimenting with using video cameras to help Ian watch the game, but with little success. Luckily, Rupert works in video electronics, so he immediately saw the possibilities involved and got straight to work.

Ian and Rupert smiling in the sun after meeting through Remap

Rupert first met Ian as a new volunteer in November 2016

Six months later, Ian was the proud owner of a futuristic headset that allows him to watch a football match from the stadium in real time. A specialised camera zooms right in to the action in front of him, makes everything ultra-high contrast and sends the enhanced image to a customised VR headset. And because Rupert donated his time and expertise to us, we were able to give Ian the device for free.

But what motivates Rupert to give away his skills for free, especially when he already has a demanding day job?

Meeting the people I help and seeing the benefit of my work. It doesn’t seem like a big thing for me but to them it can be huge. Seeing how important it is to them gives you a huge boost and makes you want to do the best you can. Just an hour or two in your garage on Saturday morning and someone’s life could be changed.

Ian smiling in his wheelchair

Just an hour or two in your garage on Saturday morning and someone’s life could be changed.

To volunteer with Remap, call 01732 760209 or email volunteer@remap.org.uk

Sophie Morrison

Sophie is Network Development Manager at Remap

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