A BOLTON charity which has been a lifeline for deaf people for nearly 150 years has received a major cash boost from a kind-hearted team of travel agents.
Hays Travel Horwich Manager Emma Unsworth made a special visit to Bolton Deaf Society to find out for herself the valuable work which the charity centre on Bark Street does for the people it supports.
Emma and her team at their store on Winter Hey Lane have been fundraising for the society all year which has included a Northern Soul music night which raised £635.
Hays Travel Horwich is part of Hays Travel North West, which is the UK’s fastest growing independent travel agency and has close to 40 branches across North Wales and the north west.
Every year, each of its stores are challenged to raise at least £500 a year for a chosen charity and Hays Travel Horwich settled on Bolton Deaf Society because they had heard through a regular customer who is a volunteer for the charity about the good work that it does.
The charity provides a focal hub for deaf people and their carers and families, from across Bolton and beyond, to come and enjoy social and sports activities from a weekly bingo club and days out to an annual family Christmas party.
It also hosts the Sensory Advocates NW charity which helps deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind people with important issues and documentation such as benefit applications, employment matters, translation of documents into British Sign Language and medical assessments.
Emma, 34, a mum-of-one from Adlington, said: “I found it such an uplifting experience to visit Bolton Deaf Society. It has such a sense of community and friendship and provides such an important social meeting point for the people it supports.
“The visit also opened my eyes to the challenges deaf people face and how reassuring it is for them to come to the society and be with other people who understand exactly what those challenges are.
“It has confirmed to me what a brilliant cause this is for us to support and what an incredibly important part of people’s lives it has become for those it helps.
“I think we will be looking to continue our support for some time to come and I have already been back to talk to them about other events in the calendar we might be able to help with, including their Christmas party.”
One of those who knows the value of Bolton Deaf Society is David Greed, 52, who moved to Heaton earlier this year and has taken on the role of Treasurer for the Bolton Deaf Social Club which is run by the society.
David was born profoundly deaf and being personally aware of the challenges this poses, he uses his own experiences to help others.
He said: “For most deaf people, their first language is British sign language, like I am doing now, so the written language and spoken language is difficult. Bolton Deaf Society is here to support them. It could be housing forms or letters from a solicitor which they do not understand.
“I know how these challenges can be a massive barrier to communication for deaf people and over the years I have learnt a lot to help compensate for this. I have been through it myself, I have come so far and now it’s about helping other deaf people with these problems.
“Not being able to communicate effectively with the outside world can be incredibly draining and difficult. Imagine it from the other way round, you are sitting in a room of deaf people, those people are signing in a language you don’t understand, and you are just watching it all going on.
“You might feel lost, you might feel disempowered and helpless, maybe even embarrassed, angry maybe. It depends on the situation what you might feel and experience and for deaf people, you are caught up in these ranges of emotions all the time.
“Here at Bolton Deaf Society, everyone comes from different backgrounds but you all have one thing in common – you use sign language – so you can relax, you can switch off from the outside world and enjoy that commonality of language which is so absent from so much of the rest of your life. It’s wonderful.”
His thought were echoed by Julie Gale, 69, from Salford, who said: “We don’t want to be isolated, nobody wants to be that, but for deaf people that can happen very quickly and easily.”
Julie, who is a mother-of-two and grandmother-of-five, added: “We need a club where we can come together and meet other deaf people who understand us and can share similar experiences. It’s enjoyable and you get a lot of support from just being together and helping one another.”
Alison Parker, Bolton Deaf Society Manager, who has a 26-year history with the charity, having learnt to sign on a course at the centre in 1993, said: “We need in the region of £30,000 a year to keep the society running and it is a challenge every year to find that money. We rely entirely on the generous donations of individuals and businesses such as Hays Travel.
“Donations such as those from the team at Hays Travel in Horwich are what keep us going and we are a vital service for our 131 members and everything we do here is with their needs in mind.
“Without us, there would be a lot of deaf people in and around the Bolton community who would become very isolated and unfortunately, quite vulnerable too. They know this is somewhere they can come where experienced and caring people can help them with any issues they have and understand the challenges they face.
“So we thank Emma and her team for helping us raise these vitally important funds which help us ensure the future of Bolton Deaf Society.”
To find out more about Bolton Deaf Society, go to www.boltondeafsociety.co.uk Facebook is @BoltonDeaf