Blind Veterans UK

Hampshire blind veteran overjoyed to be spending Christmas with 13 fellow blind veterans

A blind veteran from Hampshire has said that he’s overjoyed to be spending the Christmas period with 13 other vision-impaired ex-Service men and women at Blind Veterans UK’s Centre of Wellbeing in Brighton.

Mike Absalom, 96 and from Havant, lives on his own. He has two sons, but they live abroad and are unable to be with him for Christmas.

He says:

“If it wasn’t for Blind Veterans UK, I would be spending Christmas alone this year but now I get to enjoy a fabulous Christmas lunch on a table with others of a similar age.

“I won’t know who they are until I get there but last year, I was lucky to spend a week in November at the charity’s Centre of Wellbeing in Llandudno and I had a fantastic time with really interesting people. I’m hoping for the same this Christmas.”

Mike will enjoy the festive period alongside staff and other blind veterans at the charity’s centre in Ovingdean. During their stay veterans will have the opportunity to enjoy a whole host of activities including crafting, Christmas movies, choirs, Christmas food tasting and a tea dance.

They will come together for a traditional Christmas Day, enjoying lunch with all the trimmings before watching the King’s first Christmas Day speech.

Mike joined the Royal Marines in 1944 at 17-years-old. He served with 44 Commando for three years and was based in Hong Kong. He went on to study nuclear physics at Oxford University and worked for an American engineering company for 20 years.

In 2010, at the age of 84, Mike began to lose his sight. He discovered that he had age related macular degeneration and both eyes were affected. Mike now has five per cent vision in one eye and is completely blind in the other.

Fortunately, he found out about Blind Veterans UK and started receiving support from the charity in 2014.

He says:

“The biggest blow was no longer being able to drive but I am a positive person and I believe you operate with what you’ve got. Whatever cards you are dealt, you play. I definitely don’t let it get me down, I walk every day and I get my own meals.

“Finding out about Blind Veterans UK has had a really positive impact on my life. I’m not dependent on the charity but they are nearby if I need help.

“They react to any problems or concerns immediately, and I’m never just put on hold. They have encouraged me to try things that I never thought I would be able to achieve such as using a tablet.

“I was trained at the centre in Ovingdean. I initially said I’d give the IT session a miss, but the staff wouldn’t hear it and now thanks to the charity and my tablet, I am able to keep in touch with my sons around the world.”

Manager of the centre at Ovingdean, Lesley Garven, said

“We are really looking forward to welcoming some of our blind veterans to Ovingdean for Christmas and the New Year.

“The majority of those joining us would otherwise be alone for the festive period but now they will be surrounded by other blind veterans and staff.”

Blind Veterans UK supports thousands of blind veterans like Mike, but knows there are many thousands more who still need its support to rebuild their lives after sight loss. The charity recently launched a campaign, proudly supported by Specsavers, to find and recruit these men and women.

Mike says:

“I would urge anyone who is sat wondering if they may be able to benefit from the support of Blind Veterans UK to pick up the phone and find out. You have nothing to lose but a lot to gain.”

If you, or someone you know, served in the Armed Forces, including National Service, and are now struggling with sight loss, then please get in touch. Call 0800 389 7979 or visit blindveterans.org.uk/support

While Blind Veterans UK initially cared for veterans blinded in active Service, today they help veterans no matter what caused their sight loss.

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