What: Arts and Crafts with blind and visually impaired persons
Where: Visions Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Chelsea, through New York Cares
When: Wednesday, 6:15-8:15pm
When you first arrive at Visions on 23rd Street, you’ll wait in the lobby for the rest of the group to get there (there were about 8 or 9 volunteers the night I went). You’ll then head down to the Arts & Crafts room, where the Visions clients will be waiting or arriving shortly after you (we had 10 clients this particular night). There are 3 communal tables; volunteers will be paired with clients, to assist them with the project of the day. Since this is an on-going program at Visions, and many of the clients come each week, some people will have projects from previous weeks to finish before starting a new one; some that I saw were jewelry boxes, small hemp-like tapestries, and painted wood crafts. At the end of the class, you’ll assist in cleaning up the scraps of fabric, glue, or whatever else you were using, and make sure that all of your partner’s work is labeled with their name.
You’ll notice that not all of the Visions clients are completely blind; the woman I was working with could make out shapes and colors, but was still highly visually impaired. You can gauge your partner with simple questions, asking if they want to use the glue or if they’d like you to do it instead. Everyone was very nice, and don’t think that asking if they need you do something is condescending: you’re there to help them when they need it. The project we had the night I was there involved gluing tiny googly-eyes to foam shapes; it was a bit tricky to hand-off the eyes to Shannon, my partner, but we got the hang of it and finished our project with time to spare, allowing us to also decorate a woven hat with fabric and beads. Keep in mind that in addition to helping with the art projects, you’re also there to socialize and talk with the clients in class. Other things to know:
-This is a good activity for people looking for an on-going project that allows you to form a special bond with the clients you’re helping. Most of the volunteers had been there before and knew the clients in the class, and seemed to have nice, friendly relationships with them.
-Don’t get overwhelmed in the Arts & Crafts room; its got a lot of stuff thrown all over the place. I’m thinking that there was probably some kind of method to its madness, but I couldn’t find anything I needed. That’s what your super-nice, New York Cares team leader is for. Just ask.
-There was a dog in this class, and many others in the building; obviously, they were well-behaved seeing eye dogs, but if you have an allergy or are scared of dogs, you may want to skip this project or call ahead.
-Visions has many other volunteer opportunities for people of all ages, assisting in recreational programs, reading to clients, and more. Click here to check out their website for more information.
-This particular Arts & Crafts program has ended, but the summer session begins on July 21 and will run for 8 weeks. Click here to search for it on the New York Cares website, keyword ‘Creative Expressions’.