Sight Matters supports the Isle of Man’s blind and visually impaired community, and the Younger Members Group was created to meet a requirement for local children experiencing sight loss to participate in the kinds of activities available to sighted children.
Due to a number of factors, children experiencing sight loss are often unable to take part in activities available to children with sight. The reasons for this are many and varied, and include problems securing appropriate insurance cover, a lack of staff training and confidence, difficulty with the logistics of managing activities, a lack of appropriate support and a lack of self-belief for a child with sight loss. It is well documented that blind and visually impaired children already experience significant life challenges due to their sight loss, including being bullied, being isolated from friends as often they do not live in their locality and a general sense of unhappiness. The inability to take part in social activities with their peers is hugely detrimental to their physical and mental wellbeing.
As the only sight loss charity on the island, Sight Matters is well-placed to address these issues. The Younger Members Group formed in 2018 with the specific aim of providing local children with sight loss with a means to meet other young people with a visual impairment, form lifelong friendships and peer support, socialise, enjoy new and challenging experiences, learn new skills and make happy memories – safe and confident that these activities are run by those with specialised knowledge in supporting those with a visual impairment.
Over the last five years, the group has evolved, with Sight Matters now offering activities to children from 0—18-years-old, including activities such as pop-up play, Slime Squad, cookery classes, visits to local attractions and events, workshops and educational seminars, weekend staycations and sporting activities – as well as some truly exhilarating experiences, such as a four day specialist circus skills course (culminating in a live performance), axe throwing and a unique driving experience at Jurby racetrack!
Since the Younger Members Group was created, Sight Matters has seen a substantial increase in the demand for this service – with more blind and visually impaired children wanting to get involved and the existing group wanting to do more activities. Thanks to the donation from Gough Ritchie Charitable Trust, Sight Matters will be able to go a substantial way toward meeting this increased demand.
Cathryn Bradley, CEO at Sight Matters, says: “As a charity funded by public donations and which delivers free-at-the-point-of-delivery services, this generous donation from the Gough Ritchie Charitable Trust is greatly welcomed and will allow us to deliver a range of activities for our younger members. We know how challenging sight loss or visual impairment can be for a child and the positive effect this group has on the wellbeing of a child cannot be underestimated – and can be truly transformative for both a child and their family. The number of children accessing our services has increased and this donation will allow us to meet the additional demand as well as develop what we already offer.”