New volunteering position–admin assistant for RNIB

Yet again, it’s been far too long since I wrote anything here. As usual, it’s been a combination of crap health and not having much interesting to say! (Or indeed, me getting little bits out on my personal Twitter about my day and forgetting to collate everything into a post here.) So, I thought I’d write a post generally about my recent days out and the new position I’ve got volunteering for the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB). They were looking for an admin assistant at the hospital about 20 miles from me, and I’ve been looking for admin work, so it’s the perfect combination. I’m hoping later on if I can get a small part-time job to get something in the admin sphere rather than retail, although I’m continuing to work in the charity shops, each one every two weeks. So many allowances and accommodations are made for me in volunteering that are just not easy to find in a paid job right now. I’ll probably write more about the antics with my first proper days out alone with the manual wheelchair in another post.

I went through a couple of weeks ago to Dundee for the interview and met the woman I’ll mostly be working with, Ann-Marie, and also one of the guys who works through in Glasgow, Blessing. The interview was very informal, and I felt I did really well. I’d answered a lot of their questions before they actually came around, haha. I have no previous admin experiences, but of course through uni and just generally computer use, I’ve become very computer-literate and tech-savvy, and am very comfortable using a lot of programs. I’m also learning coding languages. The questions were more based on how you prioritize and ensure patient confidentiality and this kind of thing. I think it also helped I’d done a placement in the orthopedics department at my local hospital, although this work is more behind the scenes with the RNIB rather than the NHS.

The RNIB basically provides all sorts of support for people with impaired sight or sight loss, including general emotional support with coming to terms with sight loss or more focused approaches to finding employment and that kind of thing. You can read more about them on their website if interested. They also have many aids and accessories for sale to help with everyday living.

Later that day, Blessing emailed to let me know I’d been successful, which is great news! I went in a few days ago more to just hand in IDs and got a short introduction to the people around and a look around the department. It’s a fairly small outpatients department, so it can be quite a pain with the wheelchair. The staff toilet is not that accessible either as it has two doors and a corner to get in, so I’m not even going to try with the chair! It’s fine for me as I can use my sticks, but it’s not really acceptable. They weren’t sure how mobile I am so they sorted out making sure I could get my wheelchair under the desk and stuff, but I said I’d probably shift over to a normal chair while I’m there anyway, as sitting in the wheelchair for too long gets very uncomfortable and sore on my hips.

I’ll mostly be working with Ann-Marie and Nina, who is sight impaired herself and brings in her guide dog, Ivy, when she’s in working. I got to meet Nina and Ivy, and it’s very exciting to have regular contact with an animal again, since I had to stop volunteering at the cat shelter. Ivy’s very playful and lovable when her harness comes off, and it’ll take me a while to get used to a boisterous dog! She’s absolutely lovely.

My main tasks are a hodge-podge of things, really, depending on what needs done. Ann-Marie basically needs someone to tackle the piles of paperwork, so much of it will be entering data and doing spreadsheets; I told her I’m one of those odd people who fairly enjoys doing spreadsheets and statistics and entering data, haha. I didn’t quite tell them about my elaborate spreadsheets for my novel writing, my book collection…! But there also some other tasks such as printing Braille stickers on our leaflets so that Nina can get around more easily, organizing and ordering documents, also phoning patients and booking venues for various workshops that they offer. It’s one of these positions where you more or less learn your way around on the job and there are always people around. I met a few of the consultants in the department too.

Pending my references, I should be starting in a few weeks. I’m very excited! Of course, it’s a big undertaking physically, as I have to travel through to Dundee one day a week and I’ll still be doing a day in my local charity stores on top of that. I’ll probably take the wheelchair through most times, just to be on the safe side, even if I end up using my sticks while I’m there. There is a bus link between the two hospitals, so it’s not too difficult for me to push my chair up the hill to my local hospital to catch it. The charity will also refund my travel costs–I don’t claim bus costs back from the local stores, as it feels very rude and unnecessary, but I probably will claim for this as it’s quite a lot of money for the return ticket each week. They know about my lupus, and when I went to hand in the IDs, we ended up just chatting for a while, and the topic did come up so they’ve got some awareness of how it affects me. The great thing about volunteering is that they are usually so much more willing to make accommodations, and of course if you can’t make it one day or can’t do an assigned task, there’s not the same pressure as there might be in a paid job.

So it’ll be good to get me out of the house more often and build up some experience. I’m hoping I do manage the extra load, but I was working back up to doing the two charity shops per week as I was before my surgeries last year anyway. I’m excited to start. 🙂

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