Karen Dunderdale works as the Telephone Befriending Coordinator at HERIB. She has Stargardts Disease; a congenital genetic condition which creates a blind spot in her central vision. The conditions makes every day task like crossing the road very difficult for Karen as she cannot see the traffic even though she can hear it. It also makes recognising faces difficult.
Karen’s sight loss began when she was around 13 years old but she was not diagnosed officially until just 10 years ago.
“It was very frustrating,” says Karen. “I didn’t know what the problem was and so I gave up all the hospital visits as it was too upsetting and stressful. Eventually I went back and once I knew what was causing the problem it made a huge difference.”
Karen learn to adapt her everyday environment to cope with her sight loss. She would place elastic bands around products to identify them e.g. which is cream or toner etc. and her family learnt not to move objects around but leave them in the same place so Karen could find them.
Karen always kept busy with bringing up her children and supporting her husband’s joinery company, however once her children were grown up, she made a decision to volunteer at HERIB.
Initially helping out in office, Karen took on role of HERIB’s Befriending Coordinator back in 2015 however in spare time also volunteers with the SocialEYES leisure & activity programme where she provides support to other visually impaired members to access activities e.g. ten pin bowling, walking football and regular excursions.
She also volunteers with the Macular Society as a befriender herself and helping out at conferences.
“I find it really nice and useful to talk to others and share my stories and experience,” says Karen. “I try to encourage people not to focus on the things they can’t do, but to focus on what they can do. It helps to get out and about with others and although SocialEYES might not be for everyone, for some people it can make a real difference. It can help make you feel as if you are the same as everyone else.”
Our Wellbeing Champions project has been made possible thanks to funding from Hull City Council.