“Captain Ian Fraser lost his sight at the Battle of the Somme in July 1916, after being shot through the eyes by a German sniper. A single gunshot had robbed him of one of his greatest passions: reading. “ RNIB – How Talking Books were born
Charities have had a bit of a hard time lately, not least being frowned upon for questionable fundraising methods pressuring vulnerable people into giving. Last year Gareth G. Morgan (Professor of Charity Studies and leader of the Centre for Voluntary Sector Research) at Sheffield Hallam University) gave his valedictory lecture ‘The End of Charity’ . In it he referred to the “extraordinary combination of threats” charities faced, including the issues of underfunded organisation, fundraising abuses and media criticism. He ended his talk saying “So, what is the end to which all charity is ultimately directed? The answer is very simple: the end of charity is public benefit. If that is our focus, both in our fundraising and our operational work, and if that can be the focus of charity regulation, then we cannot go astray.”
Halina Jaroszewska and I have been working with the RNIB fundraising staff and if we wore hats we would be constantly taking them off in deference to those fabulous people. We have discovered the ‘public benefit‘ that this charity gives. We recently spent a day with some of them in Birmingham where we were offering our knowledge and expertise on presentation and public speaking, and where we found ourselves learning and increasing our respect for those fundraisers. Our focus for the day was the RNIB Talking Books, which began in 1935 and revolutionised reading for people with sight loss. With a collection of over 23,000 titles, and with over 30,000 listeners, this service brings a gift to each of those listeners.
Captain Fraser’s desire to get back to reading inspired him to record an entire talking book and he began working with the RNIB in 1918 exploring how new technology could develop this recording ability. Today, the people we were privileged enough to work with last week are now able to promote the Talking Books as their Big Ask knowing the gift that is in those Books.
“It’s like having another voice in the house. It helps break the silence and the loneliness” (Dennis, 66, a Talking Books reader) – a gift of reading, of company, of meaning, of knowing someone cares.
RNIB Talking Books
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