Terry McMeekin from Ballymena volunteers at Northern Ireland Blind Golf Association.
1. What does your volunteering involve?
Golfing Guide to Blind competitors – I guide the blind person around the golf course, ensure the club is at the ball before the person hits it and let them know roughly the distance they are from the green after each shot.
2. When did you first begin volunteering?
15 years ago.
3. What inspired you to get involved?
I have always been a keen golfer and also enjoy the social side of the sport, during another voluntary role that I carried out on behalf of the Samaritans I was on shift one evening with a blind gentleman and he told me that he played golf, like most people I thought how does he do that, he told me that he has a guide and asked me if I would like to get involved, I was intrigued so I went along and 15 years later I am still volunteering my time for something I really enjoy.
4. What attracted you to the role?
The challenge – I find it amazing that blind people can get themselves around a golf course in fact being involved as a volunteer in the sport has improved my own game as I just don’t hit the ball now I think more about how someone with no sight thinks when hitting the shot, the blind competitors scores would put some able bodied competitors scores to shame so the role attraction is that your own game will improve and at the same time you are helping another human being do something they enjoy, something that most would take for granted.
5. What skills or qualities are required for your volunteering role?
It is an ongoing learning process, you require patience and an understanding of the sport and you have to be willing to offer encouragement and motivation. You need to be able to put yourself in the blind person’s shoes.
6. Why do you volunteer?
I came from a family and home that did not care about making money, just enough to get by, the main teaching in our family was about being civil to people, enjoy life and help others, volunteering fits in with all this teaching perfectly.
7. How often do you volunteer?
3 hours per week.
8. What do you enjoy most about volunteering?
Meeting new people, working as a team and the fact that every hole you play on the course is different, you never know what you will get from the shot.
9. Why would you encourage others to get involved?
From the point of view of a blind golf guide, if you enjoy golf as a sport why not give up a few hours a week to assist a blind person around a course, believe me you will get more out of it than you put in and like me it just might even improve your own game. Volunteering as a whole is a win, win situation it gets you away from the daily life routines and gives you something to look forward to, a pleasure that costs you nothing only time.
10. What has been the highlight of your volunteering?
The friendships I have made with my fellow golfers, I have guided Sam Smyth for seven years and prior to that I guided Drew Cochrane for eight years. In 1999 Drew and I won the GOVAN CLASSIC in Stockport, competing in this tournament were the leading 10 order of merit blind golfers in the UK.
11. What advice would you give someone starting to volunteer?
Go and try it out, anyone can do it, yes sometimes it might be stressful but on the flip side of the coin you get a great sense of achievement and self satisfaction. We can all be competitive in life however if you don’t win at what you are trying to achieve always offer the hand of help, friendship and compassion to others.
12. Do you think the London 2012 Olympics will inspire people to get involved in sport and will it leave a legacy?
I have no doubt it will inspire young and old people to get involved in sport however I would like to see more being done for talented young people who cannot afford to get involved in Golf or any other sport, if a legacy is to be left priority for those who control the purse strings should be to invest in events that everyone can be part off.