NNAB hospital eye clinic support service celebrates 20 year anniversary

PUBLISHED: 13:18 10 April 2014 | UPDATED: 16:26 10 April 2014

CEO Norfolk and Norwich Association for the Blind (NNAB), Max Marriner, left, with Rachel Emberson, sister of the Ophthalmic outpatients at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, and Mark Smith, head of leisure activities at the NNAB, as they celebrate the 20th anniversary of NNAB volunteers helping eye clinic patients. Picture: Denise Bradley

CEO Norfolk and Norwich Association for the Blind (NNAB), Max Marriner, left, with Rachel Emberson, sister of the Ophthalmic outpatients at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, and Mark Smith, head of leisure activities at the NNAB, as they celebrate the 20th anniversary of NNAB volunteers helping eye clinic patients. Picture: Denise Bradley

copyright: Archant 2014

They are the dedicated volunteers that help pick up the pieces when local patients are given the devastating news that they are losing their sight.

NNAB factfile

The Norfolk and Norwich Association for the Blind (NNAB) is one of the county’s oldest charities, which is more than 200 years old.

The charity’s mission is to help Norfolk’s 20,000 people with poor sight remain independent and confident. Sight loss affects all age groups and the association supports everyone from new babies to those over 100 years of age.

Last year, its community workers made nearly 7,000 separate visits to individuals in their homes and there were over 6,000 visitors to the five equipment centres in Norwich, King’s Lynn, Great Yarmouth, Cromer, Watton and its mobile centre.

In Norwich, the NNAB has a residential home for 37 residents and 20 sheltered flats.

The charity has a sports and leisure programme and more than 200 active volunteers.

The association receives no state funding and relies entirely on legacies and donations.


Front-line volunteers from the Norfolk and Norwich Association for the Blind (NNAB) were praised for their unstinting work in supporting patients across the county yesterday when a vital service celebrated its 20th anniversary.

Hospital workers and charity officials gathered at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital to mark the achievements of the charity’s eye clinic supporters.

The charity’s team of 12 first line responders provide crucial information and advice to patients and are trained to provide hope and help to patients to come to terms with an apparently bleak prognosis, and make sure they do not have to face sight loss alone.

They routinely attend eye clinics at four Norfolk hospitals – the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, the James Paget University Hospital at Gorleston, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital at King’s Lynn and Cromer Hospital – to give support and spirit to patients once they are given the bombshell news.

Volunteers began working at the N&N in 1994 and act as the first contact for patients with the NNAB, which provides a range of services to help visually impaired and blind people to rebuild their lives.

Angela Howard, the NNAB’s eye clinics liaison officer said they were always looking for more volunteers to enable the charity to support patients at more clinics.

“The medical staff are fantastic and do all they can to reassure people, but they are busy and there’s a limit to how much time they can spend with each patient. That’s where we come in – providing on-the-spot support, and over time, helping people understand that they can still live active and fulfilled lives despite their sight loss.”

“When people lose their sight, even the most basic skills such as making a cup of tea, preparing a meal and getting around safely all have to be re-learned. We advise on the kinds of help available and provide a friendly face to reassure them that this is not the end of the world and that they can retain their independence in their own homes surrounded by loving families,” she said.

The NNAB offers both immediate and on-going support on what high and low tech equipment is available to help visually impaired people rebuild their lives. It also provides encouragement to take part in activities and sports laid on by the charity so that the newly diagnosed do not shrink into their shells and give up on their social lives.

John Fry, chairman of the N&N, said the charity provided a valuable service at the hospital’s eye clinic, which sees 1,000 patients every week.

“Volunteers are so important to us. They understand where patients come from through personal experience. They give colour and additional empathy that is so important. They know what it is like to be a patient and I am extremely grateful for the long-term relationship we have with the association.”

Max Marriner, CEO of the NNAB, added: “As a charity, we simply would not function without volunteers and the success of the service is built on a partnership and that is a partnership with very special people. We are looking forward to the next 20 years and the 20 years after that.”

Tony Lavarini, 76, who lives in Norwich, was registered partially sighted as a result of macular degeneration six years ago.

He said: “The NNAB has helped me so much. They have helped my quality of life and it means I’m not lonely all the time.

“They lent me a special machine to enlarge the words on a newspaper or a book or a letter, which means I can keep in touch with what’s going on. I also do bowling, go walking and visit the Theatre Royal thanks to the activities the charity lays on. They’ve taught me to live for the day.”


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