vision for people with sight loss
Torch News - Spring 2015

Enabling people with sight loss to discover Christian faith and lead fulfilling Christian lives.

Christian resources and activities for blind and partially sighted people worldwide.


A perfect match!

“I didn’t have anyone to talk to about my sight – but Maureen has really been a special friend”

Isabel Douglas is losing her sight. She has macular degeneration and found dealing with it alone to be a difficult task. When she heard about Torch Trust’s pilot Journeying With scheme, Isabel was very interested in taking part. She was soon matched with Maureen Clarke, a retired nurse who had been looking for an opportunity to volunteer in the community.

The idea was simple: over a period of six months, volunteers would support clients experiencing sight loss, meeting weekly to provide a listening ear and share friendship and companionship.

Starting to Share

Janet Eardley, a Torch Area Presence Developer, spoke to Maureen and Isabel to find out more.

Isabel often felt very lonely before the befriending began. “I wouldn’t have talked to other people because they have problems of their own,” she explains. “I would have kept it all to myself. Whereas I could confide in Maureen – she was a good listener.”

Now she feels very positive about the scheme and her friendship with Maureen: “She’s a special friend, a friend who was trying to understand what I was going through. She has helped a lot, because I didn’t have anyone at all to talk to about the macular. She was very helpful, very pleasant, very encouraging, very good and I enjoyed her coming to me.”

Maureen also feels she has benefited: “We get on extremely well together and have a lot in common. I can see the importance of it and have gained a friend. It’s been enlightening really; I have a nursing background so pastoral care is something that I would lean towards anyway. It has been a great experience.”

Thinking of Faith

The two have also helped each other in other ways. “We have prayed together,” says Maureen, “Isabel has prayed for me. She has been very supportive because I am doing a course with the church and she will say, ‘I will pray for you with your assignments.’ It has been a two-way thing which is very nice.”

Isabel echoes Maureen’s feelings: “Oh yes, we talk about faith. I’ve been a Christian for 60 years. Sometimes I let the Lord down, but he’s always there. Sometimes it’s hard to understand the way the Lord works. My husband died suddenly and I miss him a lot, especially now as you get older, but Maureen would let me talk and we have shared our faith. We have talked about things in the Bible. She’s a lovely person - a really ‘shining’ person!”

So what was the best part about Journeying With? For Isabel it was “Maureen coming through the door and ‘shining’, it’s just so special – her saying, ‘Isabel, I’m thinking about you.’ Just coming to the door means a lot because I don’t have many people coming here at all.”

Maureen felt that her favourite part of the experience was “seeing Isabel happy and contented, happy to do things and feeling supported, not forgotten about.”

And would the friends recommend the service? “Oh yes – it was brilliant!” answers Maureen, with Isabel agreeing: “I didn’t know how it was going to work but it was very, very good.”

Read on to find out more about Journeying With, and learn how you can get involved locally.

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Learn more about Journeying With ...

The Torch Trust befriending service, Journeying With, has now been running for just over a year. Piloted in Northern Ireland and now with groups underway in Aberdeen and soon to start in Exmouth, the service continues to expand. Leading Torch work in NI, Leonard Campbell reports on what has happened so far:

During our first year, ten people were matched with befrienders and we have received some very encouraging feedback from both the volunteers and the clients. One person losing her sight described the fear of the unknown in relation to her eye condition and how she didn’t want to burden other people with her problems. Through having a befriender, she found a “real friend” that she could open up to and share with about her situation and her feelings. The volunteers have also found the experience of befriending very rewarding.

While most of the people receiving the service were older, we have had clients in their teens, twenties, and fifties. Most of the befrienders and clients choose to meet at home for coffee and a chat, but they have also engaged in activities such as shopping, attending exercise classes and joining with other people with sight loss for a walking group.

Befrienders usually meet weekly with clients for a couple of hours at a time for up to six months, to give a helping hand just when it’s needed most.

To find out more about Journeying With in Northern Ireland, or to make a referral, contact: Leonard Campbell, tel. 02892 661932, email:

Or, to find out about developments in your local area, go to where details of all of the relevant contacts can be found.

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2015 Year of Faith and Fruitfulness

Torch CEO Gordon Temple reflects on what the year has in store ...

As we embark upon a new year, it’s good to look ahead and seek all that God has for us to do in his service. At Torch, we endeavour to capture that sense of leading in a banner that stands over the activities we engage in week by week. So, 2015 is to be Torch’s “Year of Faith and Fruitfulness” and our chosen scripture brings us Jesus’ words from John’s Gospel:

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 NLT).

We enter the year in faith. Our work is God’s work and our provider is God. And God has provided for all we have done through 2014 with a timely legacy arriving with us in the closing days of the year. We give thanks for this but we begin with little in hand for the year ahead, as dependent on God to provide as Torch has ever been.

Moving forward in faith, we hold prayers for finance every Wednesday lunchtime, drawing near to God, who has provided for Torch for more than fifty-five years. It is through faith that we are connected to the vine – to Jesus – through whom we draw all the resources needed to live for him.

We enter the year anticipating fruitfulness. We have now worked through the first four years of our five-year Strategic Plan. We have seen the first fruits and wait expectantly as our new programmes begin to flourish. Is it presumptuous to expect fruitfulness? I don’t think so. Jesus’ words encourage us to believe that if we abide in him we “will produce much fruit”. The natural consequence of being a branch on this abundantly alive vine is that there will be fruit. We may not always see it and we may struggle to count and measure it but fruit there will surely be. The challenge for us is to abide in him: disconnected we can expect to achieve nothing. With the sap of God’s Holy Spirit flowing through us we can trust God to make us fruitful.

Please continue to pray with us - perhaps setting aside a few moments on Wednesday lunchtime - as we place our faith in God and await the fruit!

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Is a great welcome enough?

Disability affects every church in some way. Here James Seager, Torch Area Presence Developer, explains why it matters to be an inclusive church ...

A great welcome goes a long way in making people feel valued. My observations are that most churches have got the welcome box ticked. Whether it’s organised with a team, left to the minister, or just friendly people taking the initiative, most churches know how to greet people. When welcoming disabled people, they may not have all the accessibility issues dealt with, or fully understand the needs of disabled people, but they give the best welcome they can. That is to be applauded.

However, is a welcome by itself enough? It’s an essential first step, but like joining a race, taking the first stride alone doesn’t take us to the finish line. The race is one of unity. Jesus’ prayer for the Church is that we might be united, just as he is united with the Father (John 17:22-23). We are to strive to gain and then keep unity (Ephesians 4:3) - leading people from outside the church to a place where they are one with Jesus and one with each other. That requires more than a welcome; it requires churches to engage in a journey of inclusion.

It is one thing to be welcomed to a church service or event. It is something very different to be fully included in the local body of believers. This is particularly true when a person who has different needs from the existing congregation starts to attend a church, for example if they have a disability such as sight loss.  Often, they are welcomed, but the steps to include them are missing.

So how do we reach a place of complete inclusion? There are no easy answers and every church must work through for themselves what this means in their local contexts. However, there are many resources that can help. For example, Torch’s Foursight programme provides a step-by-step approach to help churches become inclusive, particularly for people with sight loss. The book Enabling Church by Gordon Temple with Lin Ball also provides some great insights.

All journeys begin with a first step. So, if your church is welcoming, great! But don’t stop there. Take another step. Register for Foursight at or get a copy of Enabling Church, and move from being a welcoming church to being an inclusive church.

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Creating a space for all

When a local church decides to create a place where everyone feels welcome and able to join in, it can be a fascinating journey ... Adele Borrowman, Property Secretary at Wicken Methodist Church in Cambridgeshire, tells more ...

Wicken Methodist Church is a thriving but small rural chapel in an isolated village of just over 800 folk in the Cambridgeshire Fens. There is no post office, convenience shop, or doctors’ surgery in the village. Our nearest town is Soham, over four miles away. Our dial-a-ride service is likely to close by April, so village activities become ever more important.

Our church runs Summer Sunday Teas, which have been a lifeline to elderly and isolated people in the community for over 30 years, and we also run a youth club. Two children at the club were wheelchair users, and some of our Sunday Teas visitors are too. We’re ashamed to say we’ve had no accessible toilet for them. We knew we needed to do more.

My grandfather had a number of life-limiting illnesses in later years, including losing his sight, one eye to glaucoma and the other to macular degeneration. The church didn’t really know how to cater for this, so Grandad learnt coping mechanisms for himself. But the question remains: can’t we think about our space and make it more user-friendly for anyone with a disability?

Having celebrated our church centenary in 2011, our thoughts turned to the future. We needed to comply with equality legislation and make the place physically accessible. We decided to assess the needs within our isolated community and then look at the whole purpose and layout of our space. This journey has been fascinating and enriching. Our Methodist District Disability Officer, Mary Keer, helped with initial ideas and we engaged the views of our village, wider networks, disability agencies and most importantly people with disability themselves.

One of my friends, who has a spinal injury, suggested ways to make it easy to get around in a wheelchair. Living Sport have given some brilliant design guidelines, and Torch Trust have guided us on how colour, contrast, and presentation of materials during worship can help people with sight loss. Our local learning disabilities social enterprise will help with signage, and local charity Care Network Cambridgeshire have helped us make better provision for older people.

East Cambridgeshire District Council have been very helpful; their access group audited our plans and suggested affordable improvements, which have been incorporated into the design. Our plans include an extension for an accessible toilet and storage room, a kitchen with hatch, level access and resurfaced pathways, chairs rather than pews (some with highbacks and some for toddlers) - something for everyone. It’s not perfect (for instance, we only have on-street parking), but we are trying to make the best of what we’ve got. What we do and say is also important, so we have already completed the Dementia Friends training and are excited about the training that Torch, and Cambridgeshire Hearing Help, will do once our building work is complete!

The resources for Disability Sunday have also helped us enormously; the pack was ready to use and our youth leader did a wonderful job at incorporating it into the service – it’s a great way to bring the whole congregation together!

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Worst floods on record

One of Torch’s Malawi trustees, Lapson Mbewe, reports on a time of crisis for this beautiful country.

In the middle of January our country was hit by floods that have caused great problems to many people. As I write this, 17 temporary camps have been set up, where many people affected by the floods are staying. Life in these places is so pathetic and many are going without food. It has been announced that over 210 people from my area, Chikwawa and Nsanje districts, have been killed by the floods. Many are still unaccounted for.

The floods have caused a lot of damage to houses, farms, schools, churches, shops, livestock and village boreholes. The Government and other well-wishers have been trying to help the victims in a small way with food, water, buckets, plastic plates and black plastic sheets. The floods have affected the education of children, as many of the camps are set in schools, and pupils are avoiding school for fear of outbreak of diseases like cholera and dysentery due to poor sanitation, no proper toilets and unclean drinking water.

Amongst the flood victims, blind people have also been affected. I have a report of over 172 blind people’s houses being washed away by the floods. Some have had their crops ruined, with no hope for a normal harvest. It is rumoured that about 15 blind people are not seen in their villages. People are still hunting for them.

The immediate needs are for food, blankets, tents, kitchen utensils, clothes, and seeds for re-planting in their fields once the water has gone. Also Bibles for those whose Bibles have been damaged or destroyed.

Although some people have been rescued from the floods, others are dying from hunger, for there is not enough food in the camps where they are staying. The little food which is being given out is completely insufficient for so many people.

Mosquitoes are also a big problem, as people in the camps have no mosquito nets and are in danger of getting malaria, a disease from which so many people in Africa die. Not only houses and crops have been washed away but also over 200 church buildings.

Prayers for the situation are really appreciated, though I know that God also wants us to be doers of our words, and we should ask ourselves if we can be part of the answer to our own prayers.

As you read this, a container is on its way to Malawi, which will help in some small way those who have been affected by the flooding. Janet Stafford will be going to Malawi early March – please pray.

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Disability Sunday – when friendship matters

Disability Sunday falls on 5th July. Here Tim Wood reports on why this is such an important event in the church calendar ...

A recent survey by SCOPE revealed that 67% of people admit to avoiding disabled people.  Often, this stems from anxiety about unwittingly offending or encountering needs one cannot meet.

When Through the Roof – one of Torch’s partners in the Churches For All network – surveyed disabled people about their experience of church, their greatest heart-cry was a longing for real, deep, reciprocal friendships between disabled Christians and their fellow church members.

In response to these findings, the theme of Disability Sunday this year will be friendship. We will be encouraging churches to explore what the Bible says about friendship, and demonstrate how building deep friendships with disabled people will transform not only their lives, but the whole church and ultimately the world.

Churches for All will again be supplying a downloadable Disability Sunday pack for use in churches.  New this year will be the interactive sermon outline, a drama, resource booklet and materials for Sunday schools and youth groups.

To order your copy, phone our Client Services team on 01858 438260 or email

Tim Wood is CEO of Through the Roof and Vice-Chair of Churches for All, in which Torch is an active partner. Together, we are working to create a world where disabled people can participate fully in church life for the benefit of all.

Leeds discovers Torch!

Regional coordinator, David Judson, shares about a Torch event:

There are 20,000 people in the Leeds area with sight loss – a big challenge for the churches. At a Discover Torch day conference, attended by thirty people (and two guide dogs), James Seager outlined the ways in which Torch resources can help. Ruth and I described the activities of our Torch Fellowship Group and Torch holidays, Susan shared how helpful she finds Megavoice, and our African friends Abraham and Thomas, currently studying in Leeds, showed how Torch reaches into Zimbabwe and Zambia: “We have been greatly helped by Torch and by their braille publications!” Mark, sharing his testimony, showed how as a blind person with a fulfilling work life and church music ministry, he still encounters problems: “It’s not enough for a church to be ‘accessible’, it needs to be truly ‘inclusive’ as well”. Finally, we had a demonstration of sighted guide techniques, which everyone had fun practising!

Watch out for Torch events near you via our news and events section on our website

A new resource for your group

Would you like a fresh and creative way of exploring Christian topics with your Torch Group? If so, our new monthly resource sheets may be just right!

Creative Interactive Resources is full of hands-on ideas to help everyone in your group engage creatively with Biblical themes, whether blind, partially sighted or sighted. Each monthly resource is themed around the letter “c”, from Compassion to Commitment to Celebration! January and February are ready to download now at

Planning a holiday this year?

Why not book one of our super breaks at Torch’s beautifully refurbished, fully accessible Holiday and Retreat Centre in Sussex. To find out more, phone the holidays’ team on 01273 832282 or email us at

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Reading during Lent – more resources from Torch

Praise Him

This year’s Lent York Course – Praise Him explores five different Songs of Praise from the New Testament, and looks at what they tell us about God, Jesus and our faith. Available from Torch in braille and large print (25 point), price £4.00

The Journey

Our chosen Lent book is The Journey by John Pritchard and offers daily (weekday) readings for Lent, from Ash Wednesday to Good Friday, with a poem for each Saturday. It is suitable to use individually or in groups. Available in braille, DAISY, USB and large print (25 point) to loan and for sale in all media except USB, price £7.19

Unconditional Love

Unconditional Love, a short leaflet on what God’s love means for us. Available in braille, large print (25 point) and audio CD all free!

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A warm welcome to ...!

At Torch House we welcome Revd Michael Heaney as Operating Officer. After his early career in banking, Michael has served in church ministry for thirty years, including a period on a leadership role with a national church network. He will be responsible for the work based at Torch House, for the administration of the Trust, and will act as Company Secretary. Michael is married, has a grown-up family and lives in rural Nottinghamshire. Michael says “It is an absolute privilege to serve Torch Trust at this exciting time in its Christian ministry and mission to better enable those with sight loss to discover their God-given gifts.”

Also at Torch house, Grace Davis has joined as Communications Coordinator. With a degree in media production, Grace will be developing Torch’s radio and media work. Grace formerly worked for a local authority, supporting children with vision impairment. Grace is involved with a Leicestershire Methodist church. She enjoys drama and is a member of a local church-based theatre company.

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Volunteers notice

We are always looking for volunteers to support our work with people with sight loss, both at our Holiday and Retreat Centre and nationally. If you are interested, do contact us at or on 01858 438260.

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Join us at CRE ExCel!

Torch will once again have a stand at the Christian Resources Exhibition International, at their new location, ExCel Exhibition Centre, London, 19th–22nd of May. We would love to see you there at stand HW15! Contact Torch for free tickets to the event.

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Day of Prayer

Torch’s Annual Day of Prayer will take place on 4 June. Please note the date in your diary and perhaps you will be able to join our prayers from wherever you are.

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Here to help you

Client Services: 01858 438260

Library: 01858 438266

Holidays: 01273 832282

Prayer Line: 01858 438277

Reflections: For responses to our radio broadcasts: 0333 123 1255. Go to for details of how to listen to Reflections.

Torch News Is also available in audio CD, braille, email, standard print and large print (17-, 20-, 25- and 30-point) and can be viewed on the Torch website.

Torch Trust

Address: Torch House Torch Way Market Harborough Leicestershire LE16 9HL UK

Tel: +44 (0)1858 438260



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Chair: Marilyn Baker

Chief Executive: Dr Gordon Temple

Council of Reference members: Rt Revd Richard Atkinson OBE; Revd Dr Steve Brady; Revd Dr David Coffey OBE; Revd Malcolm Duncan; Jonathan Lamb; Revd Roy Searle; Dr Elaine Storkey; Revd Dr Derek Tidball.

The Torch Trust for the Blind

A charity registered in England and Wales no. 1095904; a company limited by guarantee no. 46165260

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