My Guide story - Evi and Norma
At first, a 29-year-old structural engineering student originally from Greece and a 61-year-old counsellor from east Belfast might seem an unlikely pair. Still, this hasn’t stopped Evi Gyftaki and Norma Moore striking up quite the friendship after being matched through our ‘My Guide’ scheme.
Norma has no vision at all after her optic nerves were damaged in a car crash when she was aged just 16. Despite the challenges this has presented, Norma is contagiously positive and ‘just gets on with it’. Her work as a counsellor for the NSPCC ‘puts everything into perspective’ and she says her outings with Evi are ‘great for fitness and mental health’.
Evi, who now lives in Carryduff after coming to Northern Ireland four years ago, said: “I have always done bits and pieces of volunteering and found it very rewarding. I remember scrolling through all the opportunities advertised on the volunteering section of the website at Queen’s University and the My Guide role stood out to me.”
She added: “Norma and I go out rain or shine and we just talk constantly for an hour and a half! It’s lovely to chat to someone with different interests and it’s great to be in a routine of getting out walking – something I’d be unlikely to do on my own. I would recommend becoming a sighted guide to anyone – it’s just two hours of your week but it makes a big difference.”
I’d recommend the scheme to anyone with sight loss – it gives you a real confidence and feeling of independence. I hope Evi and I will keep meeting for the foreseeable future, it really is a highlight of my week.
Norma, My Guide service user
Reflecting on her experiences, Norma adds: “Evi and I hit it off as soon as we met. I’ve had two guide dogs in the past, one called Fane and the other Harmony, who were fantastic. But, at the moment, a guide dog just wouldn’t fit into my life so using the My Guide service is a great way to keep active.
“Not long before I met Evi I’d had a bad fall and that really knocked my confidence. That’s why we started walking in Victoria Park because it’s all flat and progressed to Stormont with all those hills!"