Posted: 9th September 2014 by David Shepherd
Our annual Thanksgiving Day will also be an Open Day at Torch House in Market Harborough on Saturday 20 September - and you are warmly invited to come and join us.
From 2pm to 4pm there will be an opportunity to visit displays around the building and to meet staff and volunteers.
As well as celebrating 55 years of Torch we will also be marking 10 years in the present Torch House.
The doors will be open from 1pm so if you would like to to come earlier you are very welcome.
Strawberry cream teas and drinks will be served throughout the afternoon.
From 4.30pm to approximately 5pm there will be a time of worship and celebration and a short message from our guest Rev Jonathan Edwards, former General Secretary of Baptist Union. If you are bringing a group, it would be helpful to know numbers in advance - please email Carol Nokes at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01858 438260.
We look forward to meeting you on the the 20th!
Posted: 4th September 2014 by David Palmer
If you live in the West Midlands and would like to find out about the impact of sight loss and how Christians can support people affected, you are warmly invited to a free event being held near you this autumn.
The events, run by Torch Trust, will take place on Saturday at:
Hanley Baptist Church, Stoke on Trent (4 Oct);
Baptist Church Central, Shrewsbury (25 Oct),
and The Crossing at St Pauls, Walsall (1 Nov).
Each ‘Discover Torch’ event will run from 10am-12.30pm, starting with coffee / registration at 9.45am.
At these events we will think about how Torch can support and enable you and your church to reach out to people who are blind and partially sighted. Sessions will include:
For more information or to book, contact David Palmer on 01858 438260 or email: email@example.com
Posted: 27th August 2014 by Lin Ball
If you live within reach of Bristol and would like to find out about the impact of sight loss and hear about how Christians can support people affected, you are warmly invited to a training afternoon being held in November.
The event runs from 2pm to 5pm on Saturday 8 November at Fishponds Baptist Church, Downend Road, Bristol BS16 5AS.
‘Blindness is the disability the majority of people say they most fear,’ says Debra Chand of Torch Trust. ‘Every day in the UK, 100 people learn that they are losing their sight. As our population ages, the numbers will increase. Almost one in four of us will know what it is to live with a disabling level of sight loss.’
The trauma of a sight loss diagnosis has been compared to a bereavement in terms of its impact. ‘Despite this, only one in five people has someone with them at diagnosis,’ says Debra.
‘People often find themselves with no way to adapt their normal routines. Acute loneliness and clinical depression are not uncommon. We would like to support churches in setting up a befriending scheme to bring Christian volunteers alongside those adjusting to the challenging news of sight loss.’
November’s training session will include an introduction to blindness and partial sight - including definitions and different eye conditions, advice on guiding blind and partially sighted people and an overview of the biblical perspective on disability. There will be plenty of opportunities to ask questions. The session will be particularly valuable to anyone involved in pastoral work in their communities.
To book (which is essential), follow the links for the Poster, programme and booking form. For more information please contact Janet Eardley (Janete@torchtrust.org / 07870 909779). The cost of the afternoon is just £5 and will include refreshments.
Torch is looking for welcoming churches across the country willing to set up befriending groups. To find out more about the Journeying With befriending project click here or phone Torch’s Client Services team on 01858 438260.
Posted: 28th July 2014 by Lin Ball
A good friend is a good listener. And feedback from the Torch Journeying With initiative suggests that people losing their sight find a trained volunteer befriender is – quite literally – a Godsend.
The befriending service has initially been made available in Northern Ireland. Following training, which includes learning about sight loss and its impact, a befriender gets alongside someone newly diagnosed for up to six months. He or she helps as someone deals with the emotional, social and physical impact of sight loss on their everyday life, supporting them as they make adjustments. As well as being a listening ear at home, they may accompany them to eye clinic appointments, help them venture into new social settings, suggest ways in which gadgets and technology can assist with everyday activities and generally encourage them to see that life can still be good.
Clients who have been befriended through the project have given very positive feedback about the whole experience. They particularly valued having someone to confide in about their concerns.
One said, ‘My befriender was a good listener. That’s what you need, because you don’t like … other people … thinking you are moaning and groaning. I can’t see people’s faces, for example. You’re walking past them and you can’t see them properly. People wave out of their cars and you don’t know who they are.’
And other comments suggested that having the befriender helped them cope with the loneliness they were experiencing.
‘Her … just coming to the door … that means a lot because I don’t have many people coming … I’m so lonely, very lonely. I have other friends, yes. But they are in different parts of the town and they have their own families. I don’t have anybody … Life is so quiet,’ said one person, who felt that sight loss had put an end to many of the activities of her life.
Positive responses were also given about how befrienders were a help on their faith journey.
‘It helps to be able to talk about your faith. It comes back to you when you are talking about it.’
‘Blindness is the disability the majority of people say they most fear,’ says Debra Chand, who heads up the Torch Trust Journeying With project. ‘But every day in the UK, 100 people learn that they are losing their sight. As our population ages, the numbers will increase. Almost one in four of us will know what it is to live with a disabling level of sight loss.’
The trauma of a sight loss diagnosis has been compared to a bereavement in terms of its impact.
‘Despite this, only one in five people has someone with them at diagnosis,’ says Debra.
‘People often find themselves with no way to adapt their normal routines. Acute loneliness and clinical depression are not uncommon. Our new church-based befriending scheme brings Christian volunteers alongside those adjusting to the challenging news of sight loss.’
Torch is looking for welcoming churches across the UK willing to run the initiative in their areas. To find out more about the Journeying With project click here or email Torch’s Client Services or call 01858 438260.
Posted: 3rd July 2014 by Lin Ball
The first holiday guests with sight loss have been bowled over by the renovations at Torch Holiday & Retreat Centre.
‘I love the lounge with the new bright blue carpet…’
‘I like the fact that there are dado rails everywhere to follow, everything is tactile so you don’t get lost…’
‘The bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms are lovely, very easy to get into, especially for wheelchair users…’
‘The new mattresses are amazing…’
‘You get an even warmer welcome than before…’
Gaill Millar, Holidays Leader, says, ‘Our first holiday in the renovated centre – our annual 10-day activities holiday – has been very exciting. I have so many stories to tell of this first phase of renovation work – and I believe I will be telling them for years to come! Every chapter of this story abounds with miracles and answers to prayer.’
With a great deal of hard work by the contractors, the Torch staff and volunteers, this first phase of the work was complete in time for the holiday to begin for the 24 guests.
‘God gave us a Bible verse back in October 2013 as we stood and prayed this project into being,’ said Gail. ‘It was Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain (Psalm 127:1). God has provided the finance, has blessed all those who have done the work and will bless those who come here in the days and years ahead. It all looks amazing, from the new carpets and curtains to the built-in wardrobes and the specially embroidered pillows on every bed.’
So the full summer programme of all-inclusive holidays for guests with sight loss is under way. Do contact us if you’d like details. With the increased accommodation now at the Centre, there are still a few vacancies.
Posted: 17th June 2014 by Lin Ball
If you live within reach of Hull and want to make a difference for the blind and partially sighted people in your community, the insights and information you need are coming your way soon!
Faith-based organisations, community groups and churches are invited to send teams along to Discover Torch – a free morning conference and workshop being held on Saturday 5 July.
James Seager, newly appointed to grow Torch impact in the north of England, says, ‘In Hull and the East Riding, 12,000 people are living with sight loss – and every two days another person is diagnosed as visually impaired. Most of these people are disengaged from church life. This event will help you discover more about their needs and what we can do to involve them in our church communities.’
James was previously a local church minister for 15 years. ‘During that time,’ he says, ‘I developed a great desire to see people cared for, especially at the lowest points of their lives. The Church is in a powerful position to offer support to people, as we have something to give that is unique – hope in Jesus.’
The conference runs from 10am to 12noon at New Life Church, Bridlington Avenue, Hull, HU2 0DU. Though brief, the event will present an overview of the local needs, give information on sight loss and introduce Torch Trust’s new outreach and befriending project, Journeying With. There will also be an opportunity to talk to a Christian with sight loss and take part in a practical workshop.
To know more, contact James direct (firstname.lastname@example.org / 07446 898149).
Posted: 4th June 2014 by Lin Ball
Does your church mark Disability Sunday? If not, why not ask the leadership to consider it? And there’s a free resource pack to help you make it a very special day.
This year Disability Sunday is Sunday 6 July – though if that date doesn’t work for your church calendar, any other Sunday could be chosen.
The purpose of Disability Sunday is for churches to focus on disability and think about how welcoming they are to the disabled people in their communities. How can your church enable disabled people to come along, join in and be part of all that’s going on?
Churches for All – the network of Christian disability organisations of which Torch Trust is part – is offering a free resource pack for Disability Sunday. It will take you step by step through the planning and offers plenty of ideas for the content of the day. There are two sermon outlines, ideas for drama, quizzes, children’s activities, tips for involving disabled people in the event, and links to videos you might add into the programme. There are even templates for invitations and publicity. This year’s pack has been prepared by the Christian disability organisation Through the Roof.
Discover Torch conference
And, talking of learning about disability, if you live in Hull or the East Riding you are warmly invited to a ‘Discover Torch’ morning conference and workshop. This takes place on Saturday 5 July from 10am to 12 noon at New Life Church in Bridlington Avenue, Hull. To find out more and register, you can contact James Seager ( email@example.com / 07446 898149).
Posted: 23rd May 2014 by Lin Ball
Mike Townsend lost his sight as a boy – but a key encounter at blind school totally changed his direction, leading him into a busy and fulfilled life.
An experimental eye operation at the age of eight caused Mike to become totally blind – but his view of what happened then is characteristically positive.
‘Losing your sight at eight is probably a good time – if you’ve got to lose it! I was young enough to learn the skills I needed such as braille and getting around. As a lad I was full of life and wanted to get on with things and I don’t believe it slowed me down much, except I had to leave home and go away to school.’
Mike’s early experiences of blind school were tough. He describes it as ‘horrible, a dreadful place’. All children complain about school food, but Mike feels his complaints were justified. When a 10-year-old at the school died of malnutrition he felt determined to get away. He did well academically and passed an exam for Worcester College for the Blind – now New College. Life there was so much better that Mike says, ‘I thought I’d gone to heaven!’
For a while, Mike’s main aim in life was to earn lots of money, so he planned to go to the London School of Economics – which he succeeded in attending. However, he was also thinking about the deeper issues of life.
‘I was searching for spiritual understanding for life,’ says Mike.
‘A boy at school had told me about Jesus and how he knew him as a personal friend. I thought, how can you know someone who lived two thousand years ago as a real friend?’ But, examining his friend’s life, he could see that knowing God made a difference – and Mike wanted to know more. Picking up a braille book his friend left lying around – Peace with God by Billy Graham – Mike learned that the barrier to him knowing God himself was the barrier of sin or wrongdoing.
‘I have a very clear, powerful memory of the time that barrier was removed,’ says Mike.
‘I prayed to God and felt the wonderful, powerful presence of God in the room and in my life. It really was a turning point, a total change of direction.’
This change of direction took Mike’s ambitions away from money and materialism. Although he did a degree at LSE, and went on to a lucrative career in computer work initially, he abandoned that for working with a number of Christian and charitable organisations. He’s been involved over many years with Torch Trust, RNIB and Guide Dogs, he’s also the longest-serving deacon at his home church, Fleckney Baptist Church in the Midlands and he is now chair of the disability organisation Through the Roof.
Computers remain a fascination to Mike. ‘I was one of the first blind people to be involved in computer programming, and technology has been quite a key part of my life,’ he says.
‘I love access technology … making computers think, making computers do braille and making computers speak. I’m one of these people who loves gadgets! A real gadget freak.’
Tune in to Reflections
You can hear Mike’s story in more detail, and find how why his guide dog Tom is a bit of a celebrity by tuning into Reflections, Torch’s weekly radio programme, on Sunday June 15th, when Mike is interviewed by Sheila Armstrong. Sheila, also blind, is Torch’s Customer Services Leader.
Reflections can be heard on RNIB Insight Radio – online, on FM 101 (Glasgow), on Sky 0188, freesat 777 and Freeview 730 – on Sundays just after the 9am news, with repeats on Tuesdays at 2am and Fridays at 1am. It’s also broadcast on Premier Christian Radio – online, on MW 1305, 1332, 1413, on DAB and on Freeview 725 – on Sundays at 4pm.
Posted: 13th May 2014 by Lin Ball
‘In your Easter bonnet with all the frills upon it’… So went the lyrics of the Irving Berlin song. Every year on Easter Sunday, New Yorkers walk down Fifth Avenue in an explosion of colour, in a tradition stretching back to the 1800s. Not to be outdone, members of the Motherwell Torch Fellowship Group held their own Easter Bonnet parade – and very creative they were! First prize went to Cathy Young (seated, second from right) whose hat featured miniature models of many of the traditional symbols of the Easter story such as a piece of unleavened bread and a goblet of wine, with the banner ‘He is risen’ above them. Second prize for her predominantly pink creation went to Ellen Simpson (far right). And third, sporting bunnie ears, was John Wallace.
Posted: 30th April 2014 by Lin Ball
Work is forging ahead on phase one of the extension and renovation project at Torch’s Holiday & Retreat Centre in West Sussex. The Centre, which is the base for specialist holidays with a Christian ethos for people with sight loss, is a hive of activity at present, as initial demolition has given way to construction.
Reports Gail Millar, Holidays Leader, ‘It’s been busy, exciting – and very noisy! As well as the conversion of existing rooms to give them ensuite facilities, a welcoming reception area and office have been created at the front of the building. A lift has been installed to enable upstairs rooms to be easily accessible to guests who find stairs difficult. It’s so good to see things taking shape! This week four bedrooms above the lounge have been plastered, wired and made ready for sanitaryware to be fitted.'
The lovely venue set in on the edge of the South Downs National Park and close to some beautiful coastline, is being upgraded in line with Torch’s plans to take more guests on its holidays and Moving Forward short breaks - breaks which are designed to help people recently diagnosed with sight loss.
‘We thank God every day for his provision for the project – which will tell the story of his goodness for many years to come,’ says Gail. ‘And we ask for prayer for safety on site, for opportunities to share the message of Jesus with the builders, electricians and plumbers. And also for God’s provision for the next phase of the project – building three more ensuite bedrooms.’
It’s expected that a full programme of specialist holidays and retreats will resume at the Centre from late June onwards.