This is another exciting new venture for the Torch Trust. The vision is for people who are blind and partially sighted and who enjoy reading good Christian literature to be able to meet together and discuss a book, which they have all read beforehand; and we hope as you read this page you too will catch the vision.
Why start a Christian Book Group for people who are blind or partially sighted?
Here are three good reasons:
Not everyone is a reader. However, recent research by the RNIB has shown that people who are on the sight-loss journey often become more enthusiastic readers. Many of our Library borrowers have said that books become companions.
So to share this interest, which may be an increasingly important part of a blind or partially sighted person’s life, we can get together in Book Groups, where fellowship is on the agenda as well as books and of course a nice cuppa and some cake! Please contact one of Torch’s librarians for a Torch Book Group Information pack. An ABC Guide to Starting a Book Group can be found here.
Torch Book Groups are an exciting new idea. It’s simple: a group of people who are mostly blind or partially sighted meet monthly to chat over refreshments, discussing the latest audio book they’ve read. The shared interest in reading gives them a starting point for real fellowship and friendship. Torch Trust, a Christian organisation for people at any stage of the sight loss journey, helps to get the groups off the ground, sends out books on loan from its huge, wide-ranging Christian Library, and even gives some ice-breaking starter questions.
Yet, although the benefits are huge, in some places trying to establish this kind of group is really hard work. Two personal stories serve to highlight the difficulties – one about a group that’s just starting and another about a group that just might come into being
Brian P has been losing his sight progressively with retinitis pigmentosa since 1980. He used to be a hospital porter. When his sight began to fail he moved to work in the x-ray department, and then took qualifications to train as a counsellor. But in 2010 he was made redundant, and he’s left now with just light perception. Brian, who’s been married to Joan for 35 years, is a regular at two churches in Tamworth – Elim Pentecostal andSt Paul’s, Dosthill – along with his guide dog Dylan.
Brian’s been happy to be involved with the newly-formed Tamworth Torch Book Group in recent months. He enjoys the meetings though confesses himself ‘disappointed with the turnout’. They meet in the Mercian Fire Station inLichfield Streetevery third Wednesday from 2 to 4pm. In the hesitation in his voice as he describes the book group, you can tell that he’s wondering if it has a viable future unless there’s some extra help.
Meanwhile Colin M has heard about the possibility of a book group in Telford, not far from the village where he lives – and is standing by to get involved if enough people come forward.
Colin, who worked for over 40 years in youth work, has permanently lost peripheral vision as a result of two mini strokes. He describes the impact of this as ‘an awful shock’, with the biggest adjustment being his sudden loss of independence. He’s had to give up driving, for one thing, and is very aware of what that means for his wife Judith, on whom he’s now very reliant. Colin also feels acutely embarrassed about the clumsiness that he now lives with on a daily basis – banging into cupboard doors, walking into hedges along the pavement, and knocking over drinks.
The whole experience has given him increased awareness of the needs of people who have no sight – and he’s keen to be involved if a Torch Book Group starts in Telford.
Torch Regional LeaderDavid Palmerspends much of his time criss-crossing the country trying to encourage the start-up of new groups – either the larger Torch Fellowship Groups or the more intimate Torch Book Groups – but recognises that the groups depend on the leadership of local people and thrive with support from local churches.
‘Social exclusion is a major issue for many people who are blind or who are losing their sight, and many of them live alone,’ says David.
‘Torch Book Groups, which are open to people of any faith or none, use Christian books to give people a meaningful shared interest which is foundational for friendship and fellowship. They often need support from local church volunteers, especially in the early days. Friendships for people with sight loss aren’t easy. Without eye contact, conversation can be challenging until relationships are established. Sighted people are, of course, welcome to attend the Torch Book Groups too.’
Could you and your church be involved in providing local blind people with vital faith-building fellowship? Volunteers are needed for jobs such as booking and preparing a venue; providing refreshments; collecting and driving people with sight loss to the events; and simply befriending people.
Torch can provide support for anyone interested in helping launch a local Torch Fellowship Group or Torch Book Group. Launching new groups is just one of a number of new initiatives from Torch aimed particularly at supporting as many people as possible through the challenging early stages of sight loss. Do get in touch with David Palmer at Torch House (01858 438260 or email email@example.com) if you would like to know more. And, of course, it would be especially good to hear from anyone, visually impaired or sighted, in either Tamworth orTelford who would like to encourage Brian or Colin.