Through personal experience, I've discovered there are limited social opportunities for people who are blind or have low vision. Loneliness can be soul-destroying and detrimental to our mental health. I decided to start a club that invited blind or vision-impaired people to meet regularly and socialise at different venues.
Blind coffee club
The group was originally known as the Blind Coffee Club. As a devoted coffee lover, I was interested in meeting like-minded individuals. An article was written about my club in the local paper. At first I was contacted by elderly couples who lived nearby. We met in local cafes and I heard all about the
good old days. While they were lovely people, the age gap between us was significant.
Through advertising our membership gradually expanded. People from all ages and backgrounds began attending our events. New members were keen to generate ideas for upcoming outings.
We changed our name to Zora's explorers, after my seeing-eye dog Zora. We met and did various activities such as ten-pin bowling, culture walks and dining in cafes and restaurants. And of course we also met up for coffee.
I've enjoyed meeting new people through Zora's explorers. It's been great chatting and having a laugh with others. Ten-pin bowling was a lot of fun, even though our ball often went astray. Our culture walk was very interesting and informative. I gained a deeper understanding of our history and Aboriginal culture.
Zora's explorers has been running for almost a year. I've found some members come to most outings and activities; others come now and then; while some people join but, so far, have not become actively involved in the group.
Location and advertising
A major barrier to attendance is location. Some people live in the country or in the north-west of Melbourne, whereas our activities are normally in Melbourne's south-east. One member travels from Healesville to meet up with our group.
I try to ensure all events are accessible by transport. Many activities are in the city because of its central location. I've realised, however, that it's impossible to select a location to suit everyone.
An ongoing challenge is advertising. I've advertised through the internet, organisations catering for people who are blind or vision-impaired, the local paper and radio. It's difficult, however, to reach those who lack access to the internet as the information is primarily circulated online.
I value each member of Zora's explorers. I encourage everyone to be involved in the decision-making of where our next gathering will take place. Friends of people who are blind or have low-vision are also welcome to join Zora's explorers. The club is friendly, accepting and diverse. I have made wonderful friends and even met a fantastic man who is now a co-organiser.
Through co-ordinating Zora's explorers, I've learnt that sometimes we need to step outside our comfort zone. While meeting new people has often been daunting for me, overcoming this fear has been very rewarding. I'm looking forward to venturing out with Zora's explorers this year.
For anyone interested in joining Zora's explorers www.meetup.com/zoras-explorers.