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Charity ensures vision-impaired ex-serviceman won’t be alone at Christmas

PUBLISHED: 11:21 20 December 2017 | UPDATED: 13:10 20 December 2017

Ex-serviceman Mike Saunders, who is vision impaired, will be spending Christmas at a Blind Veterans UK's centre with people in a similar position to himself. Picture: Courtesy of Blind Veterans UK

Ex-serviceman Mike Saunders, who is vision impaired, will be spending Christmas at a Blind Veterans UK's centre with people in a similar position to himself. Picture: Courtesy of Blind Veterans UK

Archant

An ex-serviceman with vision impairment has been invited to spend Christmas with a group of people who are in a similar position to himself.

Every year the charity invites beneficiaries who would otherwise be alone at Christmas to spend the week at one of their training and rehabilitation centres. Picture: Courtesy of Blind Veterans UKEvery year the charity invites beneficiaries who would otherwise be alone at Christmas to spend the week at one of their training and rehabilitation centres. Picture: Courtesy of Blind Veterans UK

Mike Saunders from Kirkley will spend the festive period with other vision-impaired ex-servicemen and women at Blind Veterans UK’s Llandudno centre.

Every year the charity invites beneficiaries who would otherwise be alone at Christmas, like Mr Saunders, to spend the week at one of the charity’s training and rehabilitation centres.

Mr Saunders, 75, said: “It’s going to be great to spend Christmas with Blind Veterans UK. The staff seem to have a sixth sense because they always know what you need.

“I live by myself with my guide dog Alice, who is now retired. If we weren’t going to the centre it would just be the two of us alone on Christmas Day, but now we’ll be with a big friendly group.”

Mike in the arts and craft workshop at the Llandudno training and rehabilitation centre. Picture: Courtesy of Blind Veterans UKMike in the arts and craft workshop at the Llandudno training and rehabilitation centre. Picture: Courtesy of Blind Veterans UK

Mr Saunders joined the Royal Navy in 1957 when he was aged 15 and served for 12 years.

He travelled all over the world, including to Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and Canada, before being discharged as a leading seaman.

It was years later that Mr Saunders was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration, meaning he was forced to give up driving - something he struggled with having been fiercely proud of his independence.

“When I was told I’d lose my sight, I felt sick as a parrot,” added Mr Saunders.

Mike with his guide dog Alice. Picture: Courtesy of Blind Veterans UKMike with his guide dog Alice. Picture: Courtesy of Blind Veterans UK

“It was really difficult to accept, but I’ve lived with it for nearly ten years now and it’s something I’ve learned to get on with.”

In 2009, Mr Saunders began receiving support from Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for blind and vision-impaired ex-servicemen and women.

They provide practical and emotional support to help veterans discover life beyond sight loss.

“Blind Veterans UK have been so good to me and I know that this Christmas I’ll be well looked after,” said Mr Saunders.

“This will be my third time staying at the centre for Christmas and it only gets better.”

It is estimated that there are more than 700 vision-impaired ex-servicemen and women in Suffolk battling severe sight loss.

Call 0800 389 7979 or visit the charity’s website to find out how they could help.

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