Offering a tremendous source of support and fellowship, the Ponoka Whitecaners Support Group is still going strong after three decades in the community.
And with this being White Cane Week, members want to extend that welcoming hand to partially-sighted folks across the region to join monthly meetings.
An information meeting and social was held on Feb. 7 at St. Mary’s Anglican Church hall.
The group regularly meets the first Wednesday of each month at 1:15 p.m. except for July and August (unless a special occasion has been planned for the summer months).
“We’ve been going for 32 years now,” said Sue Boman, the group’s facilitator.
“I started with it right from the beginning when it was set up under the umbrella of CNIB. Someone from CNIB came down and helped us get organized.”
Florence Stretch led the group that first year, and then Boman took on the leadership role and has held the post ever since.
“My role is to try and make things go as smoothly as possible and to come up with ideas when they aren’t forthcoming from the group,” she added with a smile.
“I try to encourage our group to provide ideas for things that they are interested in.”
A typical meeting might feature a guest speaker such as an optometrist or a nutritionist, or a demonstration of equipment that could make a significant difference in the life of a partially-sighted person.
“I like the idea of a beginning, a middle, and an end to the meetings,” she explained.
“We always start by going around the table and identifying ourselves, so that everyone knows who is there,” she said. “It’s a bit of an ice-breaker; maybe saying something about ourselves.
“Everyone has the chance to speak if they wish to.”
The middle part of the meeting is generally where information is provided. This can run the gamut from checking out some helpful equipment to a presentation on how to identify various bills and coins, for example.
Members have various levels of vision loss, and others also attend as support people.
“We have those who are related to someone who has vision problems.”
Meanwhile, the feedback has been very encouraging.
“I’ve heard that people who have vision challenges come to the group because they can talk to others about those challenges and they understand. So there is that degree of understanding that is present with our members,” she said.
“We want to look at our strengths, what we can do, and how we meet the challenges of living without full sight. That is what the aim of the group is.”
The group, as mentioned, is also a means of sharing information among the members.
“Say someone is having difficulty reading the newspaper, for instance. What does the person in the next chair do if they have the same problem?” she said.
“It might be that they get a neighbour to read to them, or they might have a magnifier that is large enough — people in the group have a variety of different devices that they use to help them see,” she added.
“So even if I introduce a topic, the group is good at speaking up. I think pretty much everybody feels comfortable within the group to share.”
Boman said that ultimately, the group provides a very important service.
“I feel like this is a good thing because I remember what it was like for me when my sight changed. I was in my early 40s, and the sight change — the vision loss — was just huge.
“It was a real grieving process. And there are people in our group who are still going through that process. Much of it is about talking to others who understand what they are going through.
“That’s what the support group is for, and if we do nothing other than that, then it’s been a good meeting.”
Besides having written four books, Boman also keeps a blog at www.whitecaneconnections.blogspot.com.
For more information about the Ponoka Whitecaners Support Group, call Boman at 403-783-3194.