Bexley Talking Newspapers music to the ears
PUBLISHED: 09:30 15 November 2012
For 40 years, a group of Bexley-based volunteers have met each week to make the news accessible to visually impaired residents of the borough.
Bexley Talking Newspapers provides a valuable service for almost 100 people every week, recording an hour’s worth of local news on tapes which are posted to members free of charge.
The number has dwindled from around 250 when the service started four decades ago, thanks to improvements in eyecare and improved computer technology.
But chairman Lou Butler says the organisation remains a great source of comfort to those it serves.
The 78-year-old said: “I got into Bexley Talking Newspapers almost by accident but it’s a great cause and you know the people who listen to the tapes really appreciate it.”
The service is provided entirely by volunteers and the group receives no funding from the council or elsewhere. The hard work starts on Thursday morning when the volunteers collect the local newspapers, including the Bexley Times, to decide what to read for the coming week.
The group of about 20 volunteers, including technicians, works throughout the week to edit the stories, record them and put the tapes into envelopes to send to their subscribers.
Bexleyheath resident Doreen Pyne, 86, started listening to the talking newspapers just over a year ago after her diabetes caused her eyesight to deteriorate rapidly.
She said: “I look forward to them coming. They are things you would like to hear about and I rely on them to get the local news.
“My sight is not good enough to read newspapers and I never want to miss them.
“Sometimes the post holds them up, but it’s always worth it when the tapes come.”
The volunteers head around to the house of secretary Pam Jenkins, who lives in Bexleyheath.
The 65-year old works for Bexley Accessible Transport as an escort for special educational needs school Shenstone, and says being charitable is something which has always been important to her.
“I’ve been involved for over 30 years and it’s so fulfilling. I had eye problems when I was younger and learnt some sign language, and when I heard about Bexley Talking Newspapers I had to get involved.
“I didn’t think I’d still be reading it three decades later.
“I do some of the recording as well and I have roped my husband and son into getting involved. It’s a real family affair.”
Every Christmas the organisation holds a raffle and takes prizes to listeners’ houses. The volunteers are aware that entering a blind person’s home can make them feel vulnerable.
“Not having sight, or good eyesight, means you have to trust that people have good intentions and I’m well aware of that. In fact it’s one of the reasons I volunteer.
“I’ve been chairman for 20 years. Volunteering has always been a big thing for me and I was a member of St John Ambulance for 20 years. When I packed that in, I needed something to occupy myself and my wife suggested I give this a go.
“Unfortunately it would cost too much money to modernise and go digital, but thankfully a few people still want to listen to tapes.”
For more information on Bexley Talking Newspapers call Pam Jenkins on 01322 445293.