Another of our head office volunteers is Peter Guy who has been with us for almost a year – supporting our IT team as a technical volunteer.
He joined us after retiring and moving to the area.
Peter knew he wanted to do something with his time and when he saw the role advertised, it resonated with him as something he would find interesting.
His role is mainly focused around the database which serves our Sonata internet radios.
Hundreds of people have these sets which give them access to thousands and thousands of radio stations from all around the world.
The content they can access is vast which means we need to keep on top of the database which holds all the information about the stations.
Peter is responsible for dealing with new content requests when users discover stations on our database they would like to have access to on their own individual radios.
He links these stations to their sets.
Another side to Peter’s role is tracking down and fixing URL links for the radio stations as these can often change and no longer work.
He also spends time helping out with other daily office tasks.
Peter explains: “On an internet radio station the frequency is [essentially] the URL which can change quite often.
“The reason most people listening to internet radio don’t experience problems is because they are listening through a database and someone is maintaining that database.
“It’s about keeping the radios going – that’s what it’s all about.”
Talking about volunteering, Peter says he enjoys it as it’s doing him good to keep busy and that everything he does for us makes a difference.
“I like it at BWBF – it’s a good atmosphere in the office,” he added.
He also said he would encourage anyone who is thinking about volunteering to give it a go – but to remember that it is a charity which is a place to give to.
Nick Prutton is one of our radio distributors, installing sets to blind and partially sighted people in Hertfordshire.
The 57-year-old has been volunteering with BWBF since 2013.
He was looking for something to do after moving back to the area from Devon and finding himself with time on his hands.
He came across the role on a volunteering website, applied for it and was visited by one of our Regional Development Managers who trained him up.
Although Nick didn’t personally know anybody who was visually impaired, he wanted to help a good cause and as he likes getting out and about and meeting people, felt it would suit him perfectly.
He says it varies how often he goes out to install a radio – it could be once a month or up to four times.
“I don’t really have a huge technical knowledge, but I know how to work a radio,” he says.
“They are quite self-explanatory.”
Nick says he enjoys the volunteering role as it can fit around everything else he’s doing and there’s no pressure to it, although he says he tries to get out to people as soon as he can after he’s been made aware they are waiting for a radio.
“People are always very pleased to see you and are really happy with their radios,” he said.
“They really rely on the sets from my experience – many of the people live alone.
“I couldn’t imagine being in all day every day so it’s nice to do a little something to help them.
“Sometimes if it’s been a couple of days they will say they’ve been waiting for it – the radios are their contact with the outside world.
“I love meeting people and it gets me out and about and also round to other places I might not otherwise go to as I cover the whole of Hertfordshire.”
Nick also says it’s a great volunteering role because you are directly dealing with the people which the charity benefits so you really feel like you are making a difference.
Rod Sparkes has been volunteering with BWBF for four years, helping us distribute our sets to blind and partially sighted people.
Rod first got involved with BWBF in January 2012 after an AGM of Devon in Sight the previous year and says it’s been awe-inspiring.
He recalls his initial training session where he and some fellow volunteers learned not only how to use the radios and any challenges they might encounter, but also hearing about the differing levels of vision people he would be meeting may have and how to respond to them.
Rod says he decided to join us as he was already a volunteer with Devon in Sight, meeting with visually impaired people in their own homes, and adding the radio installation to what he was doing seemed the right move.
“As somebody who values the range of programmes available on the radio I can appreciate the frustration that could be felt if one cannot easily find the programme they want,” he said.
“Every home visit is different – every client has a different story and delivering a radio is not just a case of drop off, set up and depart.
“To enable them to get the best from the chosen radio, it’s important to get to know something of the recipient.”
Rod says becoming a volunteer has meant he has been able to learn how different people cope with their visual impairments and his first visit was awe-inspiring.
He also says it is very rewarding when you are able to make a difference to a blind or partially sighted person.
He said: “A radio is capable of bringing not only a voice into the home, but the whole world.
“For somebody who has lost not only their sight but also possibly their independence and ability to travel, a radio can take you to the theatre, out into the countryside and around the world as well as bring the local community to your chair side table.
“Why would anyone not want to be part of enabling a person to engage with the community outside their own four walls?”
Four years ago Brian woke up with the sight in his right eye completely gone. Just blackness remained and he only has 20% vision in his left eye.
He said it was life-changing, especially as he used to run a small chauffeuring firm and hoped to go on driving clients until he was in his 80s.
At first he was reluctant to join social groups and he missed reading the 2,000 plus books he used to enjoy for relaxation.
Now he’s 74, Brian’s wife does all the driving but as she still works he has to do things in the home. He says his confidence has grown over time and he’s now a member of three different clubs.
Brian, from Llanelli, has a Concerto 2 set and says he uses it every day and loves listening to music and the local talking newspaper on CD.
“This is my first set from British Wireless – it’s just lovely,” he said.
“I’m very pleased with it. The yellow buttons are fantastic – you can see them against the black background.
“It’s a very good machine, with good sound quality.
“The other good thing about having my own radio is that nobody comes and changes the pre-sets.”
Jennifer has been supported by British Wireless for almost 40 years and has had many different radios from us during that time as technology has changed.
She currently has one of our Concerto 2 multimedia radios and a Sonata Plus+ internet player.
The 64-year-old said: “The radios are brilliant.
“They are easy to use and the Sonata is nice and light to move around.
“It’s lovely – I just switch it on in the morning and there you go.”
Jennifer likes to listen to Absolute 60s and 70s as that’s her era – when she was a teenager.
She says it’s great to be able to phone up British Wireless and get stations added to her radio, a really quick and easy process.
Jennifer, who lives in Carlisle in Cumbria, is often involved in testing different technology for blind groups and has a wealth of adapted equipment at home.
She says she often meets people who are wary of the things on offer, but she feels it’s important to embrace things which can make your daily life easier.
“I’ve got all sorts of things – a talking laptop, talking timer, talking microwaves and talking scales – you find a way of doing things.
“It makes life so much easier and I’m a great believer in trying to be as independent and normal as a normal person is because at the end of the day I just want to get on and enjoy life.
“The radios help my independence – you can talk about things you’ve heard on the radio.
“If it wasn’t for that you wouldn’t be talking about those things.”
Norman has one of our Concerto 2 sets and says he’s absolutely over the moon with it.
The 75-year-old is registered partially sighted as he has macular retinoschisis, which means that while he can see, his vision isn’t very good.
“I can see but I have got double vision in both eyes,” he said.
“My colour vision isn’t very good either. I can get around but details are a bit of a difficulty.”
Norman, who lives in Rainham, used to work for London Underground but was forced to retire as his eyesight deteriorated.
He says he gets a lot of enjoyment from his BWBF radio, using it to listen to talking magazines and books which he gets from a club he’s a member of.
He also loves listening to the radio.
“I think the Concerto is really quite remarkable – it serves me in good stead,” he said.
In the past, Norman has been part of a BWBF focus group where several radios were showcased for people to pass comment on.
He said while some of the machines were nice, they were too small and he couldn’t read what was going on but he says he finds the Concerto very simple to use as he can find the buttons easily and knows what to push, when and for how long.
“It’s very intuitive and it serves me very well,” he said.
“I have got nothing but praise for BWBF. I have been absolutely over the moon with my radio.”