Norwich macular degeneration volunteer nominated for award

A volunteer who helped transform a small Norwich sight loss support group into one with thriving monthly gatherings has been nominated for a national award.

Alan Strachan is in the running for the Chairman's Award for Volunteering as part of the Macular Disease Society 25th Anniversary Awards for Excellence.

The nomination recognises his hard work and dedication in leading the charity's support group in Norwich.

Age-related macular degeneration affects the central vision and is the biggest cause of sight loss in the UK. There are many other forms of macular disease, including juvenile macular dystrophies.

The 79-year-old, who is affected by macular degeneration, said: 'It's a real surprise to be nominated for the award. I was aware of the scheme from someone we had put forward as a group in the past, but never thought I would be someone receiving a nomination. I don't really feel worthy of it, you just get on with what you have to do and things like awards never cross your mind. Of course it is nice to be recognised though.

'At the Norwich group we have quite a few people with very poor sight, so therefore need quite a few helpers with good vision. We couldn't run the group without them, in many ways they are more important than the leader.

'I found my time leading the group in Norwich very interesting and enjoyable. I joined the group after moving down to the area from Scotland. We had regular monthly meetings, but I found as time went on I was getting more and more calls from people diagnosed in Norwich and the surrounding area wanting someone to talk to. Many were given inaccurate information, such as that they were going to lose all of their sight, so it was great to be able to provide them with some hope and reassurance.'

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In March this year Mr Strachan, who lived in Mattishall, said goodbye to the local support group as he moved to Chelmsford to be closer to family. Members of the group were so grateful for his hard work and dedication that they decided to nominate him for the award.

Derek Heffer, who has taken over as group leader, said: 'Alan was an early member of our group covering Norwich and some of its surroundings. He took over as leader more than seven years ago. At that time there was a total membership of six to seven people. Alan left us recently when he moved to Chelmsford where it is certain he will soon get actively involved with the group there.

'When he left we were getting around 30 participants at our monthly meetings. This increase owes much to Alan's hard work. He operates in a quiet, but reassuring way, never pushing but always getting there. He has established solid relationships with the Norfolk and Norwich Association for the Blind, in whose centre we meet, and with many similar bodies of benefit to our group and the national Society.

'We have gained from his time here a solid founder and a lively group. That is what our members want and we strongly feel that an award from the society would be fully justified.'

Mr Strachan'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 22.

The Macular Disease Society's support group in Norwich meets on the second Friday of each month from midday to 2pm at the Norwich and Norfolk Association for the Blind, Allen Centre in Magpie Road.

For information, advice and support about macular disease, contact the Macular Disease Society's Helpline on 0845 241 2041 or email