Written by Idil Serce

The transition from higher education to employment can be a difficult and emotional roller coaster for all new graduates, but especially for visually impaired (VI) graduates who are in a more disadvantaged situation in comparison to their fellow peers. Being VI myself, I know how difficult it is for VI students to focus on their studies and gain work experience whilst fighting with the physical and emotional challenges of living with a VI. As a recent VI graduate, l will share my personal experience of transitioning into the world of employment and the impact that volunteering has in ensuring that all talented VI individuals are able to secure the job of their dreams.

Throughout my undergraduate studies, l knew that it was going to be very competitive to secure a graduate scheme, so as a student l made sure that l was able to take part in almost every academic and social self-development opportunity. This included becoming a part of my university society called Enactus which is a social enterprise organisation that focuses on developing sustainable social action projects, participating in two international student exchange programmes and working at my university as an international student support guide. Despite my efforts of building my skills, knowledge and experience for my graduate scheme applications, I was unsuccessful in securing a graduate scheme. The feedback that l received from employers was that they wanted to see that l had engaged within professional work experience that proved that l had acquired the specific skills, experience and knowledge required for the specific job role.

After receiving several rejections, l decided to volunteer to spend my available time more productively and gain the vital professional work experience that employers sought. Having made this decision, l came across the opportunity of doing a six months voluntary internship with VICTA to help plan and deliver the new Young Ambassador programme and engage in other administrative tasks. This was an amazing opportunity to develop my existing skills, experience and knowledge for my applications for the 2018 application season, as well as work within an organisation which helps positively shape other VI young individual’s lives.

As part of my intern position at VICTA I decided to volunteer at their recent joint family day with BucksVision and Sight Concern Bedfordshire, held at the Caldecotte Xperience Activity Centre in Milton Keynes. The day involved children and their families coming together to enjoy all of the activities that we had organised for them, including; a bouncy castle, zorbing, archery and rock climbing. It was an amazing experience for me to see and get to know some of the children and their families and to play with the children and contribute to one of the many reasons they had to smile on the day, a truly fulfilling moment for me. It was phenomenal to see two-year old Dexter, learn to navigate his way around the activity centre and to meet his cuddly visually impaired toy bear that his family had made for him. To my surprise the bear also had a miniature real life cane, to motivate him to learn how to use his cane and create a greater awareness towards visual impairment.

Throughout the day, l felt very honoured to be able to have the opportunity to share these special moments with all the children and their inspirational parents who have gone above and beyond themselves to ensure that they are able to overcome the additional needs and adjustments that their children require because of their visual impairment.

Being able to offer families the support and services that VICTA offers is vital for both children and families to be able to learn to accept and adjust to the tough and challenging journey which lies ahead of them in the future. The support that VICTA receives from its volunteers plays a significant role in enabling VICTA to continue to expand the services that it offers to visually impaired children and their families.

Volunteering offers a valuable opportunity to young VI individuals enabling them to gain the professional work experience that employers search for in applicants, as a means of knowing that the VI individuals will be able to perform the required tasks for the specified job role. As a result, l would advise all talented VI students to make the most of their long summer holidays to not only volunteer to increase the likelihood of securing their ideal job, but to also experience the personal satisfaction of knowing that they have made a positive impact on other individuals lives.

As part of Volunteer’s Week, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of VICTA’s volunteers a very happy #VolunteersWeek for all the amazing work that they do, to help support VICTA deliver the services and support that it provides for visually impaired young children and their families. We would not be able to do the invaluable work we do without your support!

Written by Idil Serce