Students at The School of Optometry and Vision Sciences, Cardiff University receive Millennium Volunteer Certificates for Volunteering with UCAN Productions

UCAN Productions, which stands for Unique Creative Arts Network, a performance arts based organisation working with blind and visually impaired children and young people have been working with the Students at The School of Optometry and Vision Sciences providing Visual Awareness and Guiding Training via RNIB Cymru.

This partnership between UCAN Productions and The School works well because it gives the Students valuable information and hands on training on how to guide a blind or visually impaired person.  Over 130 students have attended the training to date which only commenced last year.  Many of the students then came forward as Performance Support Volunteers and met the young people of UCAN – who are also future clients as Optometrists.

UCAN’s members enjoy meeting new people, many of them are isolated because of their visual impairment.  Five students in particular attended regular UCAN workshops held on Friday evenings at The School of Optometry and Vision Sciences, although they had no drama or theatre experience they all got involved.  Friendships were forged, the students gained a better understanding of the challenges facing young people with a visual impairment.

Professor Tim Wess said “I’m delighted that UCAN have given the students here the opportunity to explore their creative sides with a fantastic group of young performers.  It has been a pleasure to see the friendships develop and the students gaining a real understanding of what it’s like to live with a visual impairment.”

The students have been involved in a body percussion workshop which Sara Cox and Rufus Hound took part in when UCAN won the National Lottery’s Good Causes Tour.  Over 30 students volunteered at ‘The Only Way is Up’ event in October where over 200 children with Down’s Syndrome along with their families came to The School  for a day packed with drama, circus, tactile art workshops and a dinosaur grotto topped off with Alex Winter from CBeebies reading all the children a Northwick story.  Northwick was there on the day too, Northwick is a life like teddy bear who suffers with Nystagmus and his stories are all about how he deals with his eye condition day to day.

Pictured below are some of the students who have volunteered over 50 hours with UCAN Productions.  From Left Emma Bussey, Amit Dhalla, Dr Christine Purslow (Senior Lecturer), Tanya Connor, Helen Peregrine and Professor Tim Wess (Pro Vice Chancellor and Head of School).  Missing from this photo is Robin Clayton but he has also received a certificate for his valuable contribution to UCAN and its members.

UCAN Productions Development Director, Jane Latham said “We are extremely grateful to Professor Wess and Dr Purslow for helping us make this partnership a great success.  So many wonderful, positive stories have come out of it, the UCAN members have made new friends and the students have had the opportunity to understand about the challenges facing young people with visual impairments.  We look forward to continuing our work with The School of Optometry and look forward to welcoming many more new volunteers.”