KAB is lucky to have so many supporters in the community raising awareness of sight loss and raising vital funds for our work. Although we can't acknowledge all of them here, we are hugely grateful to all the individuals and groups who support KAB. This page is a celebration of some of their achievements.
Working with HealthWatch to improve services for partially sighted patients
KAB is joining forces with Healthwatch to raise awareness of some of the issues faced when attending NHS appointments. We will be visiting Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells Hospitals together to explore what could be done to make it easier for sight-impaired patients to visit the hospital. All our findings will be used to improve services.
We would encourage you to share your own personal experiences too.
Have you been to a hospital appointment recently? What was your experience like? Did you find it easy to get to your appointment? Did you need any additional help? Was your appointment letter in a format that worked for you?
Contact Healthwatch and share your story.
The more stories and evidence that we have, the more we can do to raise the issues on your behalf.
This week we were delighted to celebrate the achievements of our fantastic volunteer Wendy Daws who was recently presented with her British Empire Medal. She has been volunteering with KAB for over 12 years and launched both the Medway Art Group and the Gravesend Art Group. A wonderful afternoon was had by all who attended and it was a great opportunity to thank Wendy for all her hardwork.
River - an exhibition of art work at the Blake Gallery
Our KAB Gravesend Art Group have launched their latest exhibition 'River' at the Blake Gallery in Gravesend. The exhibition features a variety of works by 18 local artists with sight loss who have been exploring a variety of art techniques. This is the fifth show the group have taken part in; they met regularly at the St Andrew's Art Centre. The group held a 'Meet the Artists' event which was attended by the Mayor of Gravesham, Cllr Harold Craske.
Love Your Eyes
February is the month of love and with Valentine’s Day fast approaching, we’re encouraging you to 'Love Your Eyes'. You’ll see on our social media channels that we are advocating good eye health and making sure you get your eyes tested at least every two years. Please check out our Valentine’s Day campaign on Facebook and Twitter.
How the cold weather can affect your eyes
February has been predicted as being the coldest month this winter with strong possibilities of plummeting temperatures and snow, so we’re looking into how the cold weather can affect your eyes...
When the temperature drops, in the same way your skin becomes dry and your lips can become chapped, your eyes can also dry out – this is due to low humidity with less moisture in the air. You can reduce the possibility of dry eyes by staying hydrated and keeping up your intake of omega threes.
While some people’s eyes dry out others experience excess watering especially in high winds and freezing temperatures. If your eyes water when you step outside you can wear sunglasses for protection. Harsh winter conditions can also cause the eyes to become irritated, red, sore and the eye lids to swell, you can use a cool compress to reduce symptoms and if they persist please consult an optometrist.
New Year Honours List
Huge congratulations to our volunteer Wendy Daws who has been recognised in the New Year Honours List; she has been awarded a BEM for voluntary service to visually impaired people in North Kent.
Wendy has been volunteering with Kent Association for the Blind since 2006 when she established the Medway Art Group. The group meet weekly and work on various projects together.
Since it’s inception, the group have created a huge variety of incredible works and exhibited across the region including Rochester Cathedral, The Beaney and Sun Pier House. Wendy has guided and supported the members of this group – who all have varying degrees of sight loss – to create pieces in a variety of mediums including sculpture, spray paint and textiles as well as paint and ink.
In addition to her work leading the Medway Art group, Wendy also started the Gravesend Art Group, again encouraging visually impaired people to try their hand at something creative. The group have worked on a variety of projects including taking part in Pocahontas 400 – a commemoration of the life of Pocahontas which culminated in an exhibition at The Blake Gallery.
Wendy not only works with adults, but also leads many of our art and craft sessions for visually impaired children. Thanks to Wendy, our young clients are getting the chance to create paintings and make models in a safe and supportive environment.
We are delighted that Wendy's work has been recognised in the form of this incredible accolade.
In 2016 we worked with Girlguiding Kent East to create a KAB Challenge box packed with tasks, specialist equipment and resources to raise awareness of visual impairment. So far, two thousand badges have been sold and additional badges have been ordered for 2018. The box began a tour of Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and Senior Sections in Kent East and then visited groups in Kent Weald.
Jooles Parkin, Sandwich Division Commissioner said: Girls of all ages have gained a valuable understanding of the work of KAB, as well as what it is like to have visual difficulties and how these can be overcome. The KAB Challenge in a Box is the latest fantastic badge that we have designed to ensure our programme constantly adapts to the changing lives of girls today, and that makes our programme accessible to all girls no matter what their ability.”
Many thanks to all the groups who have taken part in this challenge. Since the project began, over £2000 has been raised for KAB!
This is one of our service users with adapted, large playing cards. His KAB Guide Communicator has adapted the cards to make them tactile which means he can now enjoy a game of cards with his family, independently. His GC has been working hard to find existing tactile games, or adapt others, to support him to remain included in family activities; this means a great deal to him. For more information about our Guide Communicator Service, please click here.
Sittingbourne Blind Fellowship Club - Christmas Carols
A wonderful evening was had by all who attended the annual Sittingbourne Blind Fellowship Club carol concert. The club also took part in the Christmas Tree Festival organised by St Michael's Church. Their tree was decorated with handmade ornaments all created by members of the club itself.
A huge thank you to Eileen who hosted a wonderfully festive tea party to raise funds for KAB. There was an incredible turn out with local community groups getting involved to support the event and local businesses donating raflle prizes. In total over £400 was raised!
Many happy returns to Stanley who recently celebrated his 100th birthday with a party at the KAB Sidcup VIP Club.
From left to right - John Bilke (Club Chairman) Mayor of the London Borough of Bexley Cllr Peter Reader, Stanley Pape, The Mayoress Irene Reader, Mark Gately (Volunteer) and Jim Chambers the club treasurer.
Picture - Derek Hope
Pensioners Information and Advice Fair
Residents in the Snodland area were welcomed to Holmesdale School recently to get information and advice from a variety of local services and organisations. Local MP Tracey Crouch was also in attendance and was keen to try out some of the gadgets that our visually impaired clients find useful.
Betty Betts Award
Congratulations to Ron who won the 2017 Betty Betts Award. It was presented at our annual Sight Matters exhibition which this year was held in Folkestone. Ron was registered Severely Sight Impaired in 2014 aged 85; his first thoughts were "However will I be able to deal with not driving?", "No more reading?" and "How on earth will I manage?" With support from the Canterbury Rehab team, Ron was shown how to overcome his everyday problems. He learnt to cook cakes, learnt to use his computer again and has learnt to use an iphone. Ron has thrown himself into overcoming his visual impairment and has achieved fantastic things in the last three years.
Ron is photographed with KAB Chief Executive Eithne Rynne and Paul Betts.
A Visit with Royalty
Ahead of the Dunkirk premier Prince Harry hosted a reception with veterans; among them was 99 year old Harry from Kent. To read the full story and see pictures from the event, please click here.
Thanks to a very kind donation from the Forest of Blean Rotary club, a dozen clients from the Canterbury area were invited to an afternoon tea at the Mount Ephraim Gardens, just outside of Faversham. All who attended were treated to a wealth of lovely sandwiches, tea, and scones (complete with jam and clotted cream!), plus access to the beautiful garden.
Our many thanks go to the volunteers who assisted with the event and once again our thanks to the Forest of Blean Rotary club for funding the event and allowing it to happen.
Cup of Tea for KAB
Our Canterbury sight centre was a hub of activity last week as we invited service users, volunteers, and members of the public to come along to have a cup of tea with us and raise money for KAB in the process.
As well as some lovely cakes, we also had a raffle and a ‘bake off’ competition, which was won by Patricia from Ashford.
A lovely day was had by all and we managed to raise an amazing £200! A big thank you to everyone who made this day such a success.
Many supermarkets now have charity token schemes at their checkouts which involve customers voting between local causes with a token. We just wanted to say a big thank you to all the customers who support KAB in this way - and of course thank you to the supermarkets for nominating us! The money raised from these schemes really does add up and can make a big difference to our services.
Active Armchairs at SocialEyes
Thank you to Georgie at The Right Step Dance Company for coming along to our SocialEyes Club and leading a really fun and engaging Active Armchairs Session!
Thank you to our Volunteers!
Madeleine Gray, our Volunteer Co-ordinator for East Kent has sent us this update:
"As part of National Volunteers’ Week we invited all our volunteers across East Kent to celebrate with us at two events in Canterbury and Folkestone. KAB staff including CEO, Eithne Rynne, came together to recognise the fantastic work our volunteers do across the region. Particular thanks were given to Mike who won a long-service award for outstanding dedication to KAB. Awards were also given to Jeanette, Christine, and Margaret for all the work they do in their roles as club leaders. Val was also recognised for her hard work in supporting KAB wherever possible.
Our many thanks go out again to all those who attended, and of course also all of those who could not be there on the day but continue to do amazing work for us."
A big thank you to the Will Adams Treatment Centre for raising funds for KAB at the open day of their new Recovery Unit in Gillingham. Simon Weston CBE, the Falklands war hero, was there to officially open the new wing and do a book signing. He gave a very heart-warming and humorous talk about the trauma he went through and his long road to recovery. The Centre provided cakes and drinks and organised a fantastic raffle with proceeds being donated to KAB. Thank you to everyone who made this day such a fantastic success.
Tough Mudder - Well Done Nev!
On Sunday 7th May, Nev Powers completed the gruelling 12 mile Tough Mudder Run course in Oxfordshire, consisting of over 20 challenging obstacles and raised an amazing £1,200 for KAB!
We are really grateful to Nev and to everyone who sponsored him, especially DHL/Sainsbury's in Dartford for match funding Nev's total. There's still time to support Nev by visiting his Just Giving page at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Nevpowers.
Last month, The KAB Active Group travelled to Lower Grange Farm in Sandling for an Archery session. It was the first time a visually impaired group had done archery at the centre so it was going to be an experience for everyone!
Tracy from the Active Group has sent us this report:
George was our instructor and he gave very clear instructions on how to stand, how the bows work, how to put the arrows on and how the bows travel once they’ve lined up. The first four members of our group were measured up for their bow and then paired up with a volunteer; we were each given five bows to use.
We all had several tries at getting the target and we had different volunteers helping us including George. I can honestly say, considering no one had done it before, everyone did really well!
Toward the end of the session we decided the volunteers should have a go themselves but using blindfolds so they could experience it ‘through our eyes’.
After the session, we spoke to George about the possibility of starting an archery group on a more permanent basis which is something we are now going to look into.
We all enjoyed our time at Lower Grange Farm and would definitely recommend it to others.
Everyone at KAB wishes all our London Marathon runners good luck for race day! Thank you so much to each of them for training so hard and being so commited to their fundraising targets.
- Peter Rider
- Kirsty Pottle
- Steve Couzens
- Samantha Judd
- Emma Lindsay
- Paul Smith
- Martin Salmon
- Paul Smith
Thank you so much to Santosh who brought in some of her beautiful saris for the SocialEyes Group to look at. Santosh explained how they are worn and gave a demonstration on the folding techniques involved. The fabrics were incredibly vibrant and intricately decorated and the group were delighted to be given the opportunity to try them on. A wonderful time was had by all!
Staff members of the East Kent team (previously Dover team) said thank you and goodbye to their office volunteer of 15 years with a farewell meal. Janet had been volunteering on a weekly basis in a variety of office roles since 2002, and this was a chance for Janet to be recognised and thanked by the team. We wish you all the best for the future Janet!
KAB Active Group - Climbing Activity
In February, eight members of the KAB Active Group went to Lower Grange Farm in Sandling for a climbing activity. they were accompanied by three volunteers and their instructors for the session were Ian and Ed.
Tracy from the Active Group has sent us this report:
We were each helped into our harnesses and separated into four different groups based on our height & weight; each group had three people in. One of the group was hooked up to climb while the other two either pulled the rope tight or assisted.
We all started on the simple wall but were able to progress to the more difficult walls. Abbie managed to get all the way up the hardest straight wall and a few of us even tried the hardest wall which had an overhang halfway up; the overhang was the killer! I just made it past before my hands started to give in!
After our session, we asked the instructors if they would try climbing the wall blindfolded. Ed was nominated to do it, which of course being an instructor at the centre for six years, he managed pretty easily. We then gave him a white stick and asked him to walk between us blindfolded; he was not so confident this time!
We all absolutely loved the session and would definitely love to do it again.
We would like to offer our warmest congratulations to Mrs Joan Price who has been awarded, by the President of the Republic, the rank of Chevalier in the Ordre National de la Legion d’honneur. This high honour has been awarded for her involvement in the Liberation of France during the Second World War. The award ceremony took place in Folkestone.
We have a great team of runners taking part in the London Marathon 2017. Thank you to each of them for supporting us by training and fundraising so hard! One of the members of Team KAB is Paul who is visually impaired. He is running with his Guide Runner Ian. This is how they are getting on so far:
"Paul and I are running well together. He is always in great humour and we are never short of conversation. He has a treadmill set up in his home, so he puts in many hours of training on his own, as well as our run together, every Thursday. He is an excellent partner to run with and naturally runs very straight, which is a great bonus, as it allows us both to run free for much of the time.
The Lydd Half Marathon is our first organised event together and we shall use it as a dress rehearsal for London, wearing what we will be wearing for London, so that we make sure that we will be comfortable for the main event, also getting feeding and drinking whilst running, which is challenging enough for sighted runners. It will also be good practice for ‘ducking and weaving’. We will, no doubt, encounter hazards that will need a rapid response; for example runners in front of us, who, for no apparent reason, decide to stop. Also tight groups of slower runners, in front of us, which we will need to side step, in order to get past; possibly the most challenging obstacle will be discarded water bottles, from the many water stations along the route. These will be tiring for Paul to negotiate as he treats them as kerbs and steps up and over them, whereas sighted runners may just avoid them or kick them out of the way. This action is likely to tire Paul out and put extra strain on his Achilles tendons and ankles. However he is tough and determined and I will do all that I can to keep him safe.
We are having a great time and really looking forward to our half marathon at the weekend."
"We had a great outing to Lydd. Paul ran really well and we stayed safe throughout the event. We completed our 13.1 miles in 2 hours and 16 minutes, which, for our first outing together and a dress rehearsal for London, has given us great confidence, that we will complete London in good shape and should get in, in less that five hours, which will be a result to be proud of."
Winter Warmer Meal
Thanks to a very kind donation from the Forest of Blean Rotary Club we were able to fund a winter lunch in Canterbury for 14 of our service users in the local area. The three-course meal was provided by the student chefs at the Beretun restaurant at Canterbury College; the event was well attended by volunteers, staff, and a wide range of service users, ages 48-101.
A big thank you once again to the Forest of Blean Rotary club for the donation and our fabulous volunteers who assisted with the smooth running of the event.
We will be running another similar event in the summer where we seek to host an afternoon tea - hopefully in the sunshine!
Fundraising for KAB
A big thank you to Maurice, and everyone who sponsored him, for raising over £400 for KAB by undertaking a sponsored beard growing!
After his grandchildren suggested he grow a beard to look like Father Christmas, a friend offered to sponsor him to stick to it and the idea of the beard growing came about! Last week, after two months, he had his beard shaved off at the Gillingham Conservative Club.
There are more photos on his Just Giving Page.
Charity of the Year!
We are delighted to have been chosen by KMonline and KMTV as their charity of the year 2017. This is really exciting for KAB and we look forward to working with the KM teams throughout the year.
Thank you to everyone who took part in our Carol Singing at The Mall Maidstone in December. We raised an amazing £678! A special thank you to the choirs from Barming School and St Michael's Junior School who all sang so beautifully.
Award Winning ECLO service
Well done to Fran Smith our East Kent Eye Clinic Liaison Officer for being awarded Highly Commended in the category of Best Patient Support at the Bayer Ophthalmology Awards.
Our ECLOs work in hospitals across the region and provide an invaluable service right from the point of diagnosis at what can be a particularly daunting and upsetting time for patients in the Eye Clinics.
For more information about the role of our ECLOs please click here.
SocialEyes Christmas Party
KAB helps celebrate Whitecliffs Talking News 40th anniversary
We were pleased to help celebrate the 40th anniversary of our Deal and Dover Talking News group at a special event held in October.
Whitecliffs Talking News, based in Deal, celebrated their milestone with an event held at Deal Town Hall. KAB CEO Eithne Rynne and volunteer Tim Samuelson were in attendance as was patron of the charity, Ms Miriam Margolyes OBE. Councillor and Whitecliffs committee member, Mrs Marlene Burnham, together with other members and volunteers from Whitecliffs Talking News and a number of blind and visually impaired listeners also joined in with the celebrations.
Ms Margolyes, who counts her role as Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter films among her many credits, commented “I think this is an absolutely marvellous way to reach out to the many blind and partially sighted people in the locality – people of all ages who for whatever reason cannot gain access to the printed versions of local newspapers.”
Eithne presented Bob Joslin, Chairman of the Talking News group, with a certificate for outstanding contribution in recognition of his efforts on behalf of KAB.
Thank you to our volunteers
A big thank you to all of our volunteers without whom, we simply wouldn't be able to provide such a bespoke service to our clients. The support they provide is invaluable! This week we have been celebrating some of our long serving volunteers from the Gravesend area. In particular: John and Fiona who have both been volunteering with KAB for over 15 years, Charles and Susanne who have been supporting KAB for over 25 years and John and Jean who have been supporting our Talking News service for many years.
Happy Birthday to Mrs Payen who, in November, celebrated her 100th birthday at our Reflections club in Broadstairs.
Maidstone and District Centre for the Blind celebrate 90 years!
In July, one of our local clubs celebrated it's 90th birthday with a buffet lunch and live music. Two other local clubs were invited to join the celebrations from Sittingbourne and Gillingham. A great afternoon was had by all and it was a lovely opportunity to reflect on all the lives which have been touched over the past nine decades. A big thank you to everyone who made the day so enjoyable and a special thank you to all the volunteers who continue to dedicate so much of their time to making the club a success. Photos coming soon!
Celebrating our Volunteers
We have around 800 volunteers who give their time to KAB - we are so grateful to each of them for their ongoing commitment to our work and the difference they make to the lives of visually impaired people across the region. This year, we were delighted that some of our volunteers had their achievements recognised at local award ceremonies including:
Phyllis who was Highly Commended in the Lifetime Achievement Award in Sevenoaks
Archie who was awarded a certificate for Outstanding Commitment as part of the Community Links Volunteer Awards in Bromley
Congratulations to both of them!
Collaboration with Girlguiding - Kent East District
We are delighted to announce that Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and Senior Section from Kent East district will soon be embarking on the KAB Sight Loss Challenge!
By working through various activities, girls of all ages will gain a valuable understanding of the work of KAB as well as what it's like to have various eye conditions and what gadgets, technology and resources are available to overcome some of the difficulties these eye conditions present.
We are really excited about this project; although the majority of our clients are older, we support people of all ages and work with many toddlers and teenagers across the region. This project is a great opportunity for us to raise awareness of sight loss and the importance of good eye health with young people.
On completion of the Sight Loss Challenge, the girls will have the opportunity to buy a special KAB/Girlguiding badge with profits being donated to KAB.
As the principal service provider for people with sight impairments in Kent, Medway and the London Borough of Bromley, we work with local, regional and national media to ensure our work, and the issues facing people with sight impairments and their families is promoted as widely as possible.