Antrim volunteer nominated for award

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A local volunteer who provides eccentric viewing training in County Antrim has been nominated for a national award.

Kate McAllister, from Antrim, is in the running for the ‘Chairman’s Award for Volunteering’ as part of the Macular Society’s Awards for Excellence.

The nomination recognises her hard work and dedication in her role as an eccentric viewing trainer.

Age-related macular degeneration affects the central vision and is the most common cause of sight loss in the UK. More people are affected as our population ages.

The Macular Society has 300 support groups across the UK, all aiming to increase the confidence and independence of people affected by central vision loss.

Macular conditions, such as age-related macular degeneration or juvenile dystrophies, cause loss of central vision. Eccentric viewing training can help people to use their vision more effectively.

Kate, whose mother is affected by Macular Degeneration, said: “I was completely surprised when I heard I’d been nominated.

“I began volunteering for the Society for the same reason many people do; because they know someone who suffers from macular degeneration.

“In my case it is my mother. As she lives in Scotland I couldn’t help out at her support group so I phoned the Macular Society to see where I could help.

“They told me about all the volunteering opportunities and I went on to train as an eccentric viewing trainer in 2012.

“What I enjoy most is the potential that eccentric viewing training and Steady Eye Strategy have to make a difference in someone’s everyday life. I have had the privilege of seeing it make people more independent, self-assured and take up hobbies which they had thought were no longer possible. It is thrilling work!”

Dorothy Marshall, a member of the local group who nominated Kate for the award, said: “Kate’s techniques have greatly improved the way I use my peripheral vision.

“In addition to her excellent teaching techniques and practice, her kindness, mannerisms and professionalism takes her well beyond the call of duty. Nothing is too much trouble for her.

“Kate appears to have endless patience. Her kindness even extended to taking me to the local bus depot after my consultations.

“It gives me great pleasure in nominating Kate. She is a wonderful ambassador for the Macular Society.”

Cleon Hutton, Skills for Seeing programme manager at the Macular Society, said: “Kate should be recognised for her bravery in taking up the role and for her pioneering attitude in Northern Ireland.”

Kate’s nomination will now be handed over to the judges, who will decide on the overall winners and present them with their awards at the Society’s annual London conference on September 27.

The ‘Chairman’s award for volunteering’ is one of four honours presented by the charity.

Tony Rucinski, Chief Executive of the Macular Society, said: “Kate has done exceptionally well to be nominated for this award, and we’re very grateful to her for the fantastic work carried out in County Antrim.

“It’s always heartening to hear how people have made such a difference to the lives of others.

“There are some really inspiring people working within the sector and volunteering within the local community for people with visual impairments. I’m proud that we can honour her in this way.”

The Macular Society’s annual award scheme has been made possible because of the generous sponsorship of Dolphin Computer Access.

For information, advice or support concerning macular degeneration, contact the Macular Society’s helpline on 0300 3030 111 or email

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