PROVING that sight loss is no barrier to mastering the art of the belay, blind veteran Nigel “Smudge” Smith and his son recently enjoyed a week-long climbing course in Llandudno organised by military charity Blind Veterans UK.
The week was not only an opportunity for Smudge to impress Jamie (13) with his head for heights, but a valuable chance for the pair to spend some quality time together over the summer holidays.
“When I became blind I felt like there were so many things that I couldn’t do with my son. Kicking a football around with him was really difficult because I have no peripheral vision, and I had to give up driving which limited the activities we could do together,” said Smudge.
“Something simple like taking climbing lessons together has really helped us just enjoy each being father and son again.”
Smudge joined The Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment at the age of 17. He served in many countries around the world including Belize, Germany, America, Canada and Cyprus until leaving the Service in 1989.
Smudge started receiving support from Blind Veterans UK in 2014 after being diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a hereditary sight loss condition.
“I really struggled when I lost my sight,” said Smudge. “It’s hard for anyone to lose their independence and I didn’t even want to get out of bed on some days. I wish I’d found out about Blind Veterans UK earlier because the support I’ve received has really turned my life around.”
Smudge took his first climbing course at the charity’s centre in Llandudno two months ago and is thrilled that Jamie has been able to join him on this latest adventure.
“It’s brilliant that we now have a new activity to do together in the future. I have a couple of climbing centres near me in the West Midlands and I’m looking forward to us trying out the ropes again soon,” he said.
Jamie has been so impressed by the support his dad has received from Blind Veterans UK that he recently took a stack of leaflets to school to raise awareness of the charity’s free, lifelong support.
“It’s great to see that my son is as invested in the charity as I am,” added Smudge. “We both want to spread the message far and wide that there’s this amazing charity out there that so many people don’t know they could be getting support from.”
Blind Veterans UK estimates that there are currently 59,000 ex-Service men and women who are now battling severe sight loss, who could be eligible for support but who do not realise it. It doesn’t matter when or how a veteran lost their sight, or when they served, Blind Veterans UK can help.
Find out more at blindveterans.org.uk/noonealone or call 0800 389 7979.