Our fourteenth Annual Forum: friendly, fascinating and fun

Listening to exhibitors

Our fourteenth Annual Forum and AGM on 19 November was a big success, enjoyed by all who attended. With a fascinating keynote speaker and a wide variety of exhibitors, it was a great way to spend the afternoon.

From finding out how we are doing as an organisation in Sandwell, to hearing about encounters with baboons and giraffes in South Africa, it was both an informative and inspiring event.

It was a chance to meet old friends and new, acknowledge the hard work of our volunteers and relax with a nice cuppa and a spot of lunch plus samosa, in true Sandwell style.

Tony and the Mayor visit the Women's Aid exhibition stand

Tony Averis, SVI Chair, said: "It was an excellent day, giving our members the opportunity to hear of the work that SVI has done over the last 12 months or so, hear our Financial Report from Lindsay Pye of John Pye Accountants and a chance to meet up with other members too. Our guest speaker for the day was Karren Visser who gave us all an inspiring talk.

"Members were able to visit the exhibitors' stands to peruse some of the equipment and services offered. And we couldn't miss out while we were at Portway...we even had a chair-based exercise session delivered by Natasha Jackson of Portway Lifestyle Centre."

The forum was opened by the Worshipful the Mayor of Sandwell, Councillor Joy Edis. The Mayor visited the exhibition stands with our Chair Tony Averis, before giving her opening address. She is pictured above with Tony and the staff from Black Country Women's Aid.

Volunteers wait to assist when needed

Our wonderful volunteers were ready to assist when needed. Amongst them were staff from the Volunteer Bureau, Sandwell Council and Severn Trent Water. We couldn't have run such a brilliant forum without all the many fabulous people who gave their time for free.

Karen and Tony thank Lindsay Pye, our accountant

Tony Averis, SVI Chair, delivered his report on the year's achievements and vision for the future. (There's more detail about our plans and what we have been up to in our Annual Report 2017 to 2018 which you can download from our about us page.)

Following on from Tony's speech, our Treasurer Karen and Accountant Lindsay Pye gave a thorough break-down of our financial situation. Thanks to hard work and success in grant applications, generous donations and legacies, and of course Karen's detailed record-keeping, our finances were given a clean bill of health for the last financial year.

Community Champions

Every year we acknowledge some of our outstanding volunteers with our Community Champion Award. This year our 'Swim Buddies', who have helped our visually impaired members gain water confidence at Portway and West Bromwich, were in the spotlight. There were quite a few of them! We are lucky to have such a dedicated bunch of volunteers. Big thanks to: Martin, Terry, Nicky, Nicola, Zalie, Trish, Laura, Marion, Warren, Tracey, Rob, Kelley and Connor. Our members wouldn't have been able to do it without you.

Not everyone was able to make it to the Forum to receive their certificate but they are represented by our champions pictured above.

Karen, Tony and guest speaker Karen Visser


Karren Visser speaking

Tony and Karen introduced our keynote speaker, Karren Visser (pictured above), a visually impaired photographer who was brought up in South Africa.

The audience was throughly engrossed in her account of growing up with sight loss in a country so very different to ours. Karren told us why and how she turned to photography as a profession, with anecdotes about interesting encounters along the way.

She is planning to do some photography work in Sandwell and we will be doing all we can to assist her and look forward to meeting her again.

You can listen to Karren's talk here. (MP3 file)

Please visit her website www.karrenvisser.com to find out more about her work.

Members talk to Karren over tea - SVi Tshirt designs in the background

Karren was an excellent, fascinating and entertaining speaker. Members were delighted that she was able to sit and chat with them informally during the breaks.


During the lunch break, SVI members Gina (Trustee) and Lisa (pictured above) sold lots of raffle tickets. A selection of generously donated prizes were up for grabs and there were some very happy winners at the end of the day!

SVI member visits Guide Dogs stand

A big thank you to all our exhibitors, who came from Sandwell and beyond to promote their services and give information.

Pictured above, a visit to the two friendly dogs brought along by Guide Dogs. We also thank: Black Country Women's Aid, Healthwatch Sandwell, Sandwell Healthy Lifestyles, Sandwell Council Sensory Services, Sandwell Library Service, Sandwell Trading Standards, Listening Books, Wireless for the Blind, Humanware, The Macular Society and Blind Veterans.

Seated exercise session

As well as having a chat, the afternoon provided opportunities for some activities. Pictured above, a seated exercise session led by Natasha of Portway Lifestyle Centre. If you haven't tried seated exercise you should consider giving it a go if you can. But be warned, wear suitable clothing! Participants admitted it was more strenuous than they expected, and there were some satisfyingly aching muscles the next day!

It wasn't all such hard work - there was a relaxing hand massage session with Sarah too.

SVI staff team with Trustee Gina

Pictured above, Kelley (SVI Enablement Worker), Susan (SVI Business Support Officer), Cassie (SVI Information and Support Officer) and Gina (Trustee) with our new 'Don't Turn a Blind Eye to Sight Loss' banner.

Thank you to everyone who attended, took part in and helped to organise and run the event.

Find out more

Some of our members have shared their positive comments on our Facebook group.

Martyn posted: "Today was the first time I went to Sandwell Visually Impaired annual forum. Everybody was very friendly, very helpful and I had a really nice time. The speakers were very interesting and informative and the atmosphere was very nice and friendly."

Trustee Gina commented: "A brilliant day. Special thank you to our guest speaker who had an amazing story to share. And thank you to all our volunteers."

Why not join the conversation and find out what we've been up to recently. Just search for 'Sandwell Visually Impaired' in Facebook groups.



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