Focus launch Talking Telephone Friends

Focus Birmingham has launched a dedicated new volunteer-led Talking Telephone Friends Service as part of our Visual Impairment Support team.

All of our Talking Telephone Friends volunteers have a visual impairment themselves and are able to provide real empathy and understanding with people losing their sight. Whilst they are not counsellors or support workers, they have all received detailed training and can provide really valuable support through conversation and a listening ear.

The Telephone Befriender Volunteer will make a call on a pre-arranged day and time each week (Monday – Friday 9:00 – 4:30) lasting around 20 minutes and there are no costs involved. You can talk about anything you want, from local news to hobbies and interests, and they can access information from the wider support team to answer specific questions.

If you live in Birmingham and would like to register your interest in receiving a call (or to refer someone else to our service) please call 0121 478 5221 to speak with someone or leave a message with your name and number saying you are interested in the Talking Telephone Friends Service. Someone will call you back to register you with the service and try to arrange a volunteer to support you but note that you may have to be placed on a waiting list while this support is being arranged. Please note that although Focus Birmingham aims to provide support to everyone affected by sight loss, this telephone-based service may not be suitable for people who have additional needs such as hearing impairment or memory loss.

The Talking Telephone Friends service has made a real difference to so many of our service users and here are a few comments we have received;

Nora: “the volunteer is chatty and puts me at ease, I really value the service”

Ray: “I found the volunteer and I have similar interests and the conversation really flows well”

Audrey: “very happy with the service and I like having someone to talk to”

From the Talking Telephone Friends volunteers who take the calls as part of the service the feedback has been just as gratifying:

Chris: “talking to different people from a variety of backgrounds is interesting and stimulating. I enjoy listening to people’s stories and experiences.”

If you know of anyone who would benefit from this vital service and would like to refer or signpost them, please get in touch with us.

This service has been made possible by a grant from Postcode Community Trust, a grant-giving charity funded entirely by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.  

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Focus Birmingham needs your help.

Please spread the word and share our project with LoveBrum to win much needed funding. The project information has now gone live and you can click on the following links to access it.

Focus Birmingham's Profile -https://lovebrum.org.uk/cause/focus-birmingham/

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/lovebrum/videos/1131671847001495/

Twitter - https://twitter.com/LoveBrumUK/status/1046674495124197377

YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWWlD-rW7Tc

The members of the public in Birmingham will be choosing their three favourite community projects until 26th October and with your help we want everyone to select Focus Birmingham when the voting opens.

It is very easy to vote and remember voting starts at 9am on Monday 22nd October. If successful we will use the LoveBrum funding for our story telling session ‘Book Worms’ which already receives a great response from our service users but we want to expand the sensory book library, providing different experiences and stories for our service users.

Focus Birmingham’s service users with more profound disabilities or sight loss can benefit greatly from multisensory books, as they develop a response to stimulation, improve participation in group activities and further develop an interest in people, events and objects.  

Save the date of Monday 22nd October and don't forget to please share with family and friends!!! For more information you can contact jasmin@focusbirmingham.org.uk.

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Cheque presentation at Focus Birmingham

Focus Birmingham were delighted to receive a cheque for £1,600 from William H Painter Funeral Directors in Yardley. This year Focus Birmingham was chosen as the recipient for all funds raised through the sale of Choice funeral plans. As well as offering the consumer a discount, a £50 donation was made by Choice to Focus for each plan taken out. In total, 140,000 households in the Birmingham area received a leaflet.

Jasmin Rana, Marketing & Fundraising Manager for Focus Birmingham said, “This was a great opportunity for Focus Birmingham to raise the profile of the work we do locally in Birmingham for people living with sight loss and disability. We are extremely grateful to have received this donation from William H Painter and want to thank Choice for their contribution.”

To find out more about William H Painter Funeral Directors and their work in the community visit www.williamhpainter.co.uk and for more information on the Choice prepaid funeral plan visit the Choice website www.choiceplan.co.uk.  

If you would like to get involved in raising money for Focus Birmingham please contact fundraising@focusbirmingham.org.uk or call Jasmin on 0121 478 5239.

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Focus is currently recruiting for a new Chair

At Focus Birmingham we believe everyone deserves the chance to live a safe, happy and productive life. We find innovative ways to challenge anything or anyone who threatens that.

We are now actively recruiting for a Chair to come and join us.

The role of the Chair is to provide strong leadership and direction to the Board of Trustees to enable the Board to fulfil their responsibilities for the overall governance and strategic direction of the organisation. The Chair will ensure that the organisation complies with its governing document, charity law, company law and any other relevant legislation or statutory regulations. To work in partnership with the Chief Executive to achieve the aims of the organisation; and to optimise the relationship between the Board of Trustees and the staff.

If you would like more information about the role and what it will entail please click here.

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Thank you

Focus Birmingham believes in its values, especially those of respect and inclusiveness and we openly invite feedback from people who use our services. We want to thank everyone who has sent us positive messages and we really appreciate your continued support. We will always take concerns seriously and will take action where needed. If you have any concerns and would like to talk to us about them please email susan@focusbirmingham.org.uk. 

We really appreciate your support.

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Zen Metro's first Dinner in the Dark

More than 40 people donned blindfolds at a top Birmingham city centre restaurant to experience something of what it is like to live with sight loss.

Focus Birmingham, which looks after the needs of people with visual impairment and other disabilities, organised a Dinner in the Dark event at the Zen Metro Thai Restaurant & Bar in Cornwall Street.

As well as the fun challenge of trying to eat a three-course meal while completely blindfolded, the event also carried the serious message of raising awareness of the charity and the thousands of local people who cope with a visual impairment every day.

Guests at the Dinner in the Dark event had to be escorted to their tables by sighted guides, with one hand on the shoulder of the person in front. They were requested to keep their blindfolds on throughout the time they were eating but could remove them in between courses during which time they were encouraged to talk about their experiences.

Susan Hoath, Focus Chief Executive, said of the event: "It has been fantastic. We have had a really enjoyable evening with a lot of laughter and fun, and also gently raised awareness of living with sight loss.

"I loved the experience. It was a magical mystery as you didn’t know what you were going to be getting. It went really well and we are so grateful to Zen Metro for their support. We also wanted to thank their staff who joined in so enthusiastically."

The event, which cost £30 for the three course meal and complimentary drink, began with an introduction by Susan Hoath, who spoke of the “passion and commitment” of working for an organisation like Focus. That was followed by a short talk from visually impaired Focus volunteer Dean Mills, who is a student at Birmingham City University. He said it can be devastating to lose one’s sight, but that you can be “empowered” to achieve things with the help of Focus.

Once seated, the blindfolded diners were served prawn crackers and assorted dips before the more difficult task of negotiating a selection of starters including spring rolls, spicy wok chicken, and smoked duck. Guests were then served a choice of four main courses, including Thai green curry, with rice, before a dessert to finish of crème brulee with vanilla biscotti.

The Director of Zen Metro, Jaimon George, said: “I am really happy with the turnout. When Focus approached me to do this I knew the hardship of people with sight loss because a friend of mine gradually lost his sight over a number of years. So we were delighted to support Focus and we will be doing it again.”

Throughout the experience, diners were asked to raise their hands if they needed escorting to the toilet, or if they became uncomfortable wearing a blindfold, which no-one appeared to.

After the event, one of the diners, Harvey Chahal, aged 44, who was present with his wife Ravinder and daughter Simran, said: “I respect people with sight loss so much more after that experience.” Simran, 20, added: “It makes you realise how much you value your eyesight.”

The meal was followed by the drawing of a raffle with the prizes including a meal for 2 at Zen Metro, Everyman Cinema Mailbox Birmingham, 2 tickets to West Midlands Safari Park and much more.

Want to get involved in the next one or just want general information about Focus Birmingham upcoming events please visit our Events page or call Jasmin on 0121 478 5239 for more information. 

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Questionnaires designed to help drive changes

Our friends at Thomas Pocklington Trust (Midlands) are asking our service users to help complete two questionnaires that will help feed into a pool of data collected to make changes for people living with sight loss:

The first one we are asking people to complete is a Vision Rehabilitation Services Questionnaire to feed into a report on Vision Rehabilitation Services with the goal being to improve services provided to people living with sight loss.

Questionnaire: Vision Rehabilitation Services 

Currently in Birmingham there are a number of hospitals that provide eye clinic services and only 2 Eye Clinic Liaison Officers (ECLOs). An ECLO provides emotional and practical support to patients who have recently lost their sight and their families. When losing sight it can be a very traumatic experience and navigating your way through a new world of sight loss can be very difficult. An ECLO can make this process much easier.

We want to hear from patients and their families on the difficulties they have faced as we campaign to bring more ECLO support into our regions hospitals.

Please complete our short survey below it should not take any longer than 5 minutes:

Questionnaire - ECLO 

Thank you for taking the time out to complete these and we appreciate any feedback you can give.

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The Sense of You

Birmingham Repertory Theatre presents in conjunction with Focus Birmingham 

THE SENSE OF YOU

By Sarah Hamilton Baker

Join us for a sensory spectacular. Guided by touch and sounds, you will be taken on an adventure like never before. On your travels you will discover interactive installations and pop-up performances inspired by the experiences, stories and imaginations of Focus users. The production is accessible to wheelchair users and guide dogs and other assistance animals are welcome.

Tickets are free but please book in advance.

When is the production and how can I book tickets?

17 July – 11am, 1pm & 3pm

Focus Birmingham

48-62 Woodville Road, Harborne, Birmingham, B17 9AT

For tickets call Jasmin on 0121 478 5239 or email her on jasmin@focusbirmingham.org.uk

What is the Furnace Project?

Furnace is The REP's pioneering community engagement programme, working with communities across Birmingham to engage and create theatre together.

Our Furnace Hubs offer communities the opportunity to make a brand new piece of theatre that tells their story, reflects their experiences and celebrates their community.

Theatre makers from The REP are currently working in five different Furnace Hubs around Birmingham. Working closely with communities, listening to local stories and learning about the people and places there, they will create a brand new piece of theatre with, for and about your community.

If you are interested in seeing other similar free events near your neighbourhood or for more information visit www.birmingham-rep.co.uk/furnace

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General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

To comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) we must tell you how we use this data and ask for your permission. By completing the Data Consent Form below you are providing your permission for us to process your data for the purposes below.

Permission to store your data

Focus Birmingham, in line with the Data Protection Act 1998 and our own privacy policy will endeavour to keep all information held including any personal records, private and confidential at all times.

This form captures your consent preferences with Focus Birmingham and it will only take you a few minutes - all you have to do is follow the link below and complete the data consent form let us know how you would like to be communicated with and by which method (phone/email) and send the completed form back to info@focusbirmingham.org.uk

Remember you can withdraw consent at any time by emailing info@focusbirmingham.org.uk writing to the Fundraising Department at Focus Birmingham.

Data Consent Form - Click to download

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Seeing Beyond Eyes - CET Training Birmingham

On Thursday May 31st Visualise Training and Consultancy and Orbita Black with support from Thomas Pocklington Trust will be running a course is specifically designed for Optometrists (Optom’s) and Dispensing Opticians (DO’s).

This course will be held at Focus Birmingham and you will have the options to select the time you would like to attend the course.   The course itself will consist of:

Hour 1: An Introduction to Visual Impairment - 1 hour discussion workshop - 3 interactive CET Points

An introduction to visual impairment discusses the principle causes of sight loss in children, adults and the elderly and the associated symptoms in the initial and advanced stages. It discusses the problems visually impaired people experience even when visiting eye care practitioners and considers what reasonable adjustments should be made to better serve such patients. A unique perspective is provided by a the presenter who is registered blind.

Competencies: Optom & DO: Communication; Standards of Practice; Optom:

Ocular Diseas: DO: Low Vision; Ocular Abnormalities.

Hour 2: Saving sight, supporting sight loss - 1 hour discussion workshop - 3 interactive CET Points

This 1 hour discussion workshop covers 4 cases concerning low vision or sight threatening eye conditions:

  • A registered sight impaired AMD patient with LV needs, and her concerned sisters who want advice for themselves
  • A veteran glaucoma Px who has difficulty getting his drops in, and relating poor compliance to preventable sight loss
  • A patient presenting with classic symptoms of retinal detachment and why this is the number one cause of clinical fitness to practice cases and insurance claims
  • A congenital aphakic patient, as an infant and as a young adult, and how failure to dispense properly can itself cause a patient to unnecessarily have low vision

Competencies: Optom & DO: Communication; Standards of Practice; Optical Appliances.

Optom: Ocular Disease.

DO: Low Vision; Paediatric Dispensing; Ocular Abnormalities.

To find out more information or book your place on the course please click here.  

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