In this blog, Grace shares her journey about qualifying as an Eye Clinic Liaison Officer (ECLO), and reflects on how her experiences of being unwell and her volunteering placements helped her realise what her life ambitions were:

When I became ill, I felt incredibly isolated. For what felt like a whole year, I sat on my sofa at home feeling fed up about not being able to go anywhere. My family and friends visited and phoned, but that made me sad, and I felt I sounded like a scratched record, always repeating the same thing about my health. All the while, the consultants, doctors and nurses were telling me conflicting information about what was wrong with me.

Eventually, I went to the hospital for a four-day protocol; I was so excited that I may finally find out what was wrong with me. During the protocol I was asked a number of times: ‘what do you want from life?’ I remember answering back: ‘I just want a quality of life.’

The time I spent unwell at home gave me a chance to think about what I, wanted to do with my life, and if I had the quality of life I so desired. I realised that I didn’t want to waste another minute, I did not know where I was going but I was looking forward to the journey. After a few months, my health began to improve, and I started on this journey to a better quality of life.

My health began to improve, and I did things that were on my bucket list (even though I did not realise that I had a bucket list!)

I knew I wanted to work with other blind and partially sighted, but I didn’t know where to begin.  So I started an eye care course,  which led to two other voluntary placements, before I began volunteering as a Thomas Pocklington Trust (TPT) Eye Clinic Support Worker. I worked at one of Moorfield Hospital’s satellite clinics and I felt my confidence grow so much. I was working alongside an Eye Clinic Liaison Officer (ECLO), a role I had been interested in long before I was struck by illness. ECLOs are a point of contact for patients of the eye unit in a hospital, providing information, advice and emotional support.

During my time working in the Eye Clinic I interacted with patients, their families and clinical staff. I built great relationships with staff members, patients and their families.  Working within the Moorfields Eye Clinic taught me so much; not only about different eye conditions, but how to give practical and emotional support to patients, to know which organisations to refer a person to and, most of all, to enjoy the work I was doing.

I am now an ECLO myself, and this is in large part due to all the amazing people who encouraged me, not only within TPT but also my other voluntary placements. These, and other charity community projects which I have attended, have helped me grow so much in the past year. I have learnt that there are people waiting to help you, but you need to ask. If you have a dream or a goal, you too can make it happen.