"At first, it's like a death sentence" - blind club celebrates milestone anniversary (From Times Series)
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Barnet Borough Blind Club to celebrate 20th anniversary with exhibition in North Finchley
A club that helps combat the “terrifying effects” becoming blind can have is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
For two decades, the Barnet Borough Sight Impaired club has provided a lifeline to its members - giving them a place to share laughter and jokes with others suffering sight loss.
It plans to celebrate the landmark day at its annual meeting by holding an eyesight exhibition to warn others to look after their eyesight before it is too late.
Treasurer Sunethra Goonewardene, of Nethercourt Avenue, Finchley, said: “It’s quite amazing that we’ve been around this long. I've been there from the first day it opened.
“It’s good fun. The members talk to each other and exchange ideas about how to cope with being blind. It gives them a bit of a lifeline, to know there are others going through the same thing.
“People are very happy here. It’s wonderful, a lively group. I’m looking forward to the celebrations and I’m appealing for everyone to come along.”
Stalls will include information about guide dogs, support services, a display of arts and crafts created by people with a visual impairment, and prevention advice.
Frank Williams, who played the vicar in TV sitcom Dad’s Army, will also be making an appearance on the day.
The club was launched by optician Harry Day, who is now 103, when there was little or no support for blind people in Barnet.
Group member Dr Oliver Natelson was diagnosed with glaucoma in his 60s, and became blind after retiring from his job as a chemistry and physics professor.
The father also suffered from a torn retina and cataracts when he was in his 50s and 60s, but admits he did not look after his eyesight.
Dr Natelson, 72, said: “I was stupid, I didn’t get my eyes tested often and I rarely took my eye drops.
“When you lose your sight, at first it's like living a death sentence. You’re alive, but you can’t go out in the street alone. You loose your self confidence. It was terrifying.
“But at the club, we all support each other. It’s a fantastic place, I really enjoy coming.”
The event will be held on Tuesday, March 4 from 10am to 2.30pm at the group’s meeting place in Trinity Church, Nether Street, North Finchley.
Anyone is welcome to attend, but for more information contact 07957 686 377 or 020 8343 3450.
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