Paralympian becomes Chair of Trustees at Kingston Association for Blind

In this illuminating case study, we delve into the remarkable journey of Roy Frank Smith MBE, a dedicated individual committed to supporting visually impaired communities. 

As the Chair of Trustees for the Kingston Association for the Blind (KAB), Roy’s story is one of inspiration and selflessness. With a rich history in sports, including participation in the Paralympics and an MBE for his contributions to Disabled Sport, Roy’s transition from competitive sports to community service is a testament to his unwavering passion for making a difference. 

As we celebrate Trustees’ Week (6-10 November 2023), join us as we explore Roy’s role, responsibilities, and impactful achievements, including empowering visually impaired individuals to get involved in sport.

trustees week kingston association for blind

Volunteer: Roy Frank Smith MBE 

Role: Chair of Trustees

Organisation: Kingston Association for the Blind (KAB) 

Tell us a little about yourself:

I live in New Malden, now retired, but I have been volunteering for various sight loss charities for the last 50 years. I took part in the Paralympics and have been involved in both the summer and winter Olympics. I have run Marathons and Half Marathons to raise money for the sight loss sector. I received the MBE from the Queen in 1991 for services to Disabled Sport, and I had the privilege of being a torchbearer in the 2012 London Olympics.

What inspired you to become a Trustee?

I had so much fun taking part in sport as an individual and in teams, I wanted hundreds more people in London and Nationwide to be able to have the same amount of fun. The rewards from watching visually impaired people of all ages enjoying a wide range of activities are immense. I have been involved as the chair of British Blind Sport and Chair of Metro Blind Sport and Social Club for the visually impaired for over 30 years. Over thousands of individuals have befitted from the clubs I have been involved in. My passion, in the long run, is to see the fun blind children have running, jumping and throwing and all blind and partially sighted people of all ages enjoying a wide range of activities.

How did you find out about the volunteering role?

When I stopped competing nationally and internationally, I looked at how I could support local visually impaired charities. I contacted the Royal Borough of Kingston who put me in touch with KAB. In June 2023 I became the Chair of Trustees therefore passing on some of my administration and fundraising skills including networking and coaching contacts.

Tell us about your Trustee role.

My role is to coordinate with the CEO and other trustee members, meet with new members and volunteers and provide essential awareness training, especially for members with recent sight loss. To ensure that we have enough funds to support the activities we provide and try and increase our income so we can increase our services and activities to over 4,000 people living with sight loss in this borough. All information is sent out in the format of the members’ choice e.g. large print, audio, talking newspapers and accessible website.

Please, tell us about your most memorable experience as a Trustee volunteer.

Organising one-to-one swimming lessons for blind and partially sighted people who cannot swim. Finding the funds from Sport England and Royal Borough of Kingston to book training pools and one-to-one coaching has been enormously rewarding. It has fulfilled so many members’ dreams of swimming for the first time. We have also inspired members who have lost their sight later in life to regain their confidence to go back into the pool with one-to-one coaching with separate lanes in the pool, thus avoiding the fear of collisions and people jumping into roped-off areas.

What advice would you give to someone considering becoming a Trustee?

Sit in at a few meetings first, go along to some activities, meet the members, check out our newsletters and see what a difference you can make to the visually impaired community.

Can you sum up your experience in three words?

Life changing experience

If you have been inspired by Roy’s experience, consider becoming a trustee with Kingston Association for the Blind or check out other opportunities in Kingston and become a volunteer today.

Spotlight: Kingston Buddy Scheme

What does your organisation do? 

The Kingston Buddy Scheme is a befriending project which matches volunteers with a buddy who has learning disabilities or autism. The scheme has been running for over 20 years and has been a positive experience for many dozens of service users and volunteers alike. Great, lasting friendships have been formed.

Why do you want to involve volunteers in your organisation? 

Volunteers who can spare a few hours a month to meet their buddy are the lifeblood of our scheme – we cannot function without our volunteers and we are hugely appreciative of everything they do and bring to our scheme.

What volunteer role/s do you have available? 

We need volunteer befrienders who can spare a few hours a month to take their buddy out to leisure activities which they might otherwise not be able to attend. We provide full training for our volunteers and we reimburse their expenses.

Find out more and apply here!

What advice would you give to someone considering volunteering for your organisation? 

Do it! Our scheme is so rewarding for our volunteers. You will make a huge difference to your buddy’s life and you will gain great life experiences along the way.

Spotlight: Volunteering with Dyscover

Dyscover charity - supplied image

Thinking about volunteering in Kingston? Find out more about local organisations and their volunteering opportunities with our Spotlight series!

What does your organisation do in Kingston? 

For almost 30 years, Dyscover has been providing long term support and opportunity to people with aphasia and their families. Aphasia is a neurological condition, acquired through stroke, brain injury or a rare form of dementia and is very isolating and frustrating. Aphasia affects a person’s communication, including their ability to find words, construct sentences and understand language, both written and spoken. 

We work to inform, support, and empower people with aphasia to manage their communication disability and to re-engage with life. We create an aphasia friendly environment in which people feel included, valued, and have a sense of purpose. 

Daily sessions are led by professional speech and language therapists, supported by a team of volunteers, and designed to help people adjust to living with aphasia. We help our members to develop strategies for communicating, maximise abilities and provide help and support for partners, carers, and other family members. 

Dyscover charity - supplied image

Why do you want to involve volunteers in your organisation? 

Volunteers are an integral part of Dyscover, making up 80% of our team and we could not provide our crucial services without their support.

What volunteer role/s do you have available? 

We are looking for new volunteers to join the team at our Kingston group. Volunteers support our members (who have aphasia) in a structured and therapeutic conversation group with Speech and Language Therapists. The group is designed to help our members adjust to life with aphasia, develop different communication strategies and regain confidence. 

Who are you looking for? 

We look for friendly, positive individuals keen to learn about aphasia and want to make a real difference to our members. No previous experience of working with people with disabilities is needed as full training and ongoing support are provided. 

When & where?

Kingston Quaker Centre on Tuesdays at 9.30am-12.30 (term time only)

What advice would you give to someone considering volunteering for your organisation? 

If you are considering volunteering with Dyscover, you can chat with our Volunteer Coordinator and arrange to go along and see the group in action which is the best way to learn more about what we do and how our volunteers support our members. We are a very friendly and welcoming team. Our volunteers tell us that it is a hugely rewarding role and that they really get so much from volunteering with us.

Changing trends in volunteering are affecting us all

corporate volunteer day

The content of this article is taken (and edited) from The Conversation. It provides a lot of food for thought! 

The original article can be found here.

“The number of people taking part in volunteering in the UK is decreasing. This is bad news, but it is not surprising. 

The social restrictions imposed as a result of COVID-19 do explain some of this decline. Of course, we went out less, and some regular volunteering was cancelled. The pandemic did also create new opportunities for mutual aid and informal helping out, and for people to become involved in helping deliver local services to their friends and neighbours. But there has been a longer-term fall in volunteer numbers that pre-dates COVID-19. 

There are good reasons why people do not volunteer. They may have work commitments, childcare or other caring responsibilities. They may not know how to get involved, or not feel welcome. And the obstacles that prevent people from volunteering are likely to have become more significant over the last few years, in particular, due to the cost of living crisis. 

The government has monitored volunteer participation in England since 2001. Between 2001 and 2013 the number of people taking part in volunteering each year in England remained fairly consistent – maybe even increasing slightly. Around 40% of people said they volunteered at least once a year and around 28% volunteered at least once a month. 

However, after a peak in 2013-14, volunteer numbers have fallen. The latest government survey found that only 16% of people in England took part in formal volunteering once a month in 2021-22. 

Similarly, a report by the Charities Aid Foundation shows that the number volunteering has been in steady decline for the past five years – down 1.6 million people since 2018. Another survey, carried out in 2022 by the National Council for Volunteer Organisations, shows declines in various voluntary activities. 

Taking part in volunteering is also generally affected by age. Young people aged 16 to 25 may volunteer through school, college, or university or through social clubs because they have the time and are motivated to get skills and experience to benefit them later on. 

There is a drop-off in participation during the transition from youth to adulthood when people move into work and acquire more caring responsibilities and so have less free time for volunteering. There is then generally a gradual increase in volunteering with age as people regain spare time – and a second drop-off as people move into old age and are more likely to be burdened by poor health or cut off from social connections. 

The evidence on barriers to volunteering also shows a relationship between volunteering and social advantage. Wealthier, more educated, more socially connected people have more opportunities to volunteer than those living in more challenging social circumstances. 

This perhaps better explains the gradual decline in volunteering over the past decade or so. As people’s lives have become more challenging as a result of falling living standards and rising costs it is not surprising that they do not have the time, money, or motivation to volunteer. 

If the cost of living crisis in the UK continues, it would not be a surprise to see volunteering numbers decline further. People will have to continue to focus their attention and effort elsewhere. 

This is a problem – because volunteering is beneficial to those doing the volunteering as well as the cause they are supporting. Volunteers can gain skills, experience new cultures and communities and increase their employability – and research suggests volunteering improves mental health and reduces mortality risk. 

If particular groups of people – such as people with disabilities and people from ethnically diverse and socially disadvantaged communities – are less able to volunteer, then they miss out on any benefits. 

The whole notion of volunteering could widen rather than reduce social inequalities: the gap between the most well-off and the poorest. Growing inequalities already have negative effects on the health and wellbeing of many people and their communities. 

Over the past decades, there have been multiple attempts to support UK volunteer numbers. These include David Cameron’s coalition government’s Big Society and The Big Help Out as part of the coronation celebrations. 

However, the focus of these strategies and programmes is inevitably on individuals – trying to tap into their personal motivations – rather than addressing the deeper social issues that affect participation. 

Getting more people volunteering again means making sure people have the time, energy, and inclination to get out and help out in their communities. This will be stymied if they are having to worry about paying bills, getting a secure job, finding good quality childcare or waiting for a doctor’s appointment. It is unclear whether participation rates will recover until broader social inequalities and issues are addressed.” 

So, lots to consider here. We, who live in a perceived wealthy area, are not immune to this decline and must be as involved in the solutions as those areas where the relationship between economic contraction and declining volunteering is clearer. Answers? Why don’t you tell us? 

Michael Green, Project Manager at Volunteering Kingston

Celebrating Volunteering and Discovering the Power of Giving

National Volunteers Week (June 1st-June 7th, every year) was a tremendous success, and here at Volunteering Kingston, we are constantly reminded of the invaluable contributions of volunteers. We believe in spreading this celebratory spirit to all organizations engaging with their communities.  

That’s why we’re thrilled to extend a warm invitation to the upcoming Discover Volunteering in Kingston event, set to take place on Thursday, July 20th, at the vibrant All Saints Church in Kingston, from 6pm to 8pm. 

The Discover Volunteering in Kingston event, inspired by the previous year’s Big Thank You gathering, is designed for everyone eager to explore local volunteering opportunities and express gratitude to those already making a difference. This event is a collaborative effort with partners like The Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, Kingston Hospital, Kingston University, Kingston Voluntary Action, The Kingston Pound Project, and many others, all contributing to its planning. With such fantastic support, we hope to welcome a remarkable number of residents to join in on the festivities. 

What can you expect at the event? It will be an exciting multi-layered affair, including: 

  • A Volunteer Fair, showcasing selected volunteering-involving projects 
  • Networking over tea 
  • Heartwarming entertainment, with singing performances 
  • An inspiring sewing corner exhibition run by refugees 
  • A unique volunteering exchange tree 
  • A keynote speech by the esteemed Leader of Kingston Council, Cllr Kirsch 
  • Plus, we’re still working on other fantastic surprises! 

The best part? This event is entirely free to attend! We can’t wait to see you there! 

Let us know you’re coming by clicking the Eventbrite link here: 

Join us in July 2023 for a day of joy, connection, and the celebration of volunteering in the beautiful community of Kingston! 

Discover Volunteering in Kingston Event – Everyone Welcome!

Volunteering event in Kingston

Are you interested in volunteering, but just don’t know where to start? Join us and discover the amazing opportunities available in Kingston!

Whether you’re looking to give back to your community, gain new skills, or meet new people, Kingston has something to suit you.

There are so many ways you can make a difference, so join us for the chance to meet with local charities and organisations and learn about the different ways you can get involved from the people who know best.

All are welcome, so come along and discover how you can get involved and make a positive impact in Kingston!

To register your interest in attending, please reserve a spot via our Eventbrite page.

Date: 20th July 2023

Location: All Saints Church Market Place Kingston upon Thames KT1 1JP

Cost: Free

Time: 18:00 – 20:00

National Volunteers’ Week: Being the Change

Our annual celebration of all things volunteering will soon end… National Volunteers Week (June 1st-7th) will be back in 2024, but what will be different – both for us in the sector and the communities we support? If we have learnt anything from the history of the last 15 years, it is surely that change comes at you fast! The question is; how do we ensure that we can be the change we want to see? 

Whether it’s celebrating and inspiring or strengthening the diversity of contributions; we can’t be static in the 51 weeks of the year when we’re not in ‘celebration mode’. Whether for national campaigning groups, service delivery organisations, mutual aid or every town and village’s version of Beazley Street Community Association; the need to be the force for positive change is paramount. Politics and Governments may try to influence direction, but it is the experience of volunteers – seeing the reality of people’s lives – that matters. That should always be the most influential player in change.  

Covid and the cost of living crises opened our eyes to how vital the ‘on-the-ground’ capacity of volunteering is. With that comes power and responsibility. This power is already manifesting itself with a new, more collaborative approach towards our sector, from Local and National Government. The responsibility it brings is to ensure that it is never taken away again. We are serious players in serious times. 

In a world where the loudest voice isn’t always the most perceptive or productive, and where attention spans can be short, it is imperative that our experience helps shape the future and ensures any change is helpful. We do that best by continuing to be ourselves. Volunteering is the quickest and most effective way to bring change. Whether small scale or the first step in a thousand-mile march: our contribution is needed everywhere.  

Michael Green, Volunteering Kingston Project Manager 

Published by Volunteering Kingston and Volunteering BarnetGroundwork London’s volunteering services. 

 Become a volunteer! Browse current opportunities with Volunteering Kingston

National Volunteers’ Week: Diversity is a strength, our strength

A friend of mine texted me in advance of meeting up in a pub recently. They felt the need to explain the diverse characteristics of their friend (who was considering joining us). Those characteristics seemed no more unusual than is the welcome norm in places like London.

I reflected on this and felt that, whilst the pre-explanation was unnecessary, the fact that diversity is the norm is something to reflect joyfully on. 

In volunteering, diversity has existed for a long time. Yes it, like all aspects of our society, has taken time to evolve and becomes more inclusive as we can learn ways of best practice. But the reality is, the range, issues and diverse clients of voluntary organisations, the issues those organisations are embedded in, and the range of clients served have meant volunteering has always been an outlier for progress and change. Long it may continue.   

What volunteering has shown again and again is that as diversity becomes second nature the strength of the sector, and the individual driving forces behind that strength, grow exponentially. Signposting, social prescribing, opportunities for all, reaching out to the seldom heard or seen, welcoming those displaced…  All these cascade engagements and understanding, which then allows for enhanced contributions and shared experiences across a wide range of diverse backgrounds. A virtuous circle we can all enjoy. 

National Volunteers’ Week (June 1st to June 7th) will celebrate the strength of diversity – and rightly so. Ultimately, when we celebrate that diverse strength in volunteering, we are celebrating ourselves. 

We are all diverse, all different, all unique in so many ways; and we contribute to a united strength that is unsurpassable. 


Michael Green, Volunteering Kingston Project Manager 

Published by Volunteering Kingston and Volunteering BarnetGroundwork London’s volunteering services. 

Become a volunteer! Browse current opportunities with Volunteering Kingston

National Volunteers’ Week 2023: Celebration and Appreciation

As we are all aware, the Coronation recently passed. Crowds gathered, traditions were upheld (and some slightly modified), the great and the good attended, our media shone a light onto the sideshow of personalities and the weather, in typical British fashion, rained on the parade.  

Kings Charles III dedicated the weekend of his Coronation to the Volunteering Spirit within his realm and The Great Help Out was born. Whilst such events might not truly reflect the breadth of the 24/7/365 volunteering that takes place across the country, if it inspired people to keep contributing to their community – then that is no bad thing! 

National Volunteers’ Week (June 1st to June 7th) follows quickly… Here is a time to celebrate and inspire that comes around every year. It, like The Help Out, isn’t the be-all and end-all of showcasing volunteering – that is done again every day by volunteers on the ground. But it is an annual, welcome, chance to thank and appreciate those whose contribution is one of the most important unifying glues in our society. 

A cost of living crisis so soon after a pandemic has all the potential for discouraging and undermining that glue. What National Volunteers’ Week will helpfully do is give us all an opportunity to reflect and take in the sheer scale of what millions of individual contributions can make. The celebration that we invite you to take part in is the appreciation of the contributing individual. Saying thank you when you see a volunteer between June 1st and 7th is a great thing to do. Appreciating what volunteers do all year is even better. 


Michael Green, Volunteering Kingston Project Manager 

Published by Volunteering Kingston and Volunteering BarnetGroundwork London’s volunteering services. 

Become a volunteer! Browse current opportunities with Volunteering Kingston

Balancing kids, work and volunteering

I volunteered, many years ago, then kids came along and there didn’t seem to be much spare time anymore. As the kids grew up, I’d got into the habit of work filling the time available, so I still didn’t seem to have a lot of time. It was after the covid lockdowns that I realised that I did have time, I just needed to organise myself better and remember what I got out of volunteering. 

 I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do; I knew regular weekly slots was best for me rather than ad-hoc. I also knew I’d prefer something that got me out of the house. I’d heard of Anstee Bridge previously and been to a couple of their ‘tea parties’ so when I saw them asking for volunteers on Volunteering Kingston, I got in touch with the project manager, Katherine. 

She and Laura were warm and welcoming from the start and always immensely thankful to all their volunteers. Anstee Bridge works with teenagers who have social, emotional and mental health issues. They are referred by their school and usually attend one or half a day a week to do creative workshops. 

I go in for half a day a week and stay with the same young people for the year. I get to know them and see them bloom as their self-esteem increases, and I get to take part in great workshops like candle making, circus skills and painting. I have the simple role of making these fantastic, but troubled, youngsters feel good about themselves through learning new skills in a safe environment. I am well supported by the staff if there are concerns, but that is rare.  

I really enjoy volunteering at Anstee Bridge. I know I help the young people, but I also help myself by giving myself time away from work emails and stresses of general life. When I’m there, it’s not about me or my worries, so they drift away for a few hours, and I feel better at the end of it. 

I’ve also worked with others to start a charity – Friends of Anstee Bridge – to help raise funds for the projects and artists Anstee Bridge use to help the young people. As the chair of trustees, I can say that trustee volunteers work so hard, but it is also rewarding. It suits me to be involved in both, but whoever you are giving time to you will get so much in return. 


Liz Green, Volunteer in Kingston 

Become a volunteer! Browse current opportunities with Volunteering Kingston