From volunteer to staff member

A Sight Loss Council volunteer has built upon the skills and knowledge she developed through volunteering and successfully joined our team as a full time staff member.

Belle joined West Yorkshire Sight Loss Council (SLC) as a volunteer in 2021. In March 2023, she became our newest coordinator and helps look after our SLCs in Yorkshire and Humberside.

Belle has Stargardt disease, a genetic eye disorder that causes progressive vision loss. Her vision began to deteriorate when she eight years old and has gradually worsened over time.


Belle Whitely, SLC coordinator for Yorkshire and Humberside. She is 8 years old in this picture and has blond hair, tied in a ponytail. She is wearing a red and white jumper, and smiling at the camera.

Belle, aged 8, shortly after diagnosis


This naturally presents challenges to Belle’s everyday life. An example of this is being unable to read without assistive text software. Bright lights can also make it harder for her to see, as well as worsening her condition.

After Belle graduated from university, she joined West Yorkshire Sight Loss Council (WYSLC) as a volunteer member. She also had a full-time role in the development team at Opera North.

Belle has always been passionate about the rights of blind and partially sighted (BPS) people. She joined WYSLC because she wanted to develop a better understanding of the sight loss sector and improve her advocacy skills.

She said:

“Joining West Yorkshire Sight Loss Council was a great way for me to build on my communication skills. I was able to improve my team work skills and gain a better understanding of the sector.”


Being a member of West Yorkshire SLC gave Belle valuable insight and experience into how a Sight Loss Council is run, developed her skills, and increased her understanding of the sight loss sector. As a result, 18 months later, she felt ready to apply for a newly advertised Sight Loss Council coordinator job role.

Belle added:

Headshot of Belle Whitely, West Yorkshire SLC member. Belle has long, brown, hair. She is looking at the camera, smiling.“I loved being a volunteer with Sight Loss Councils and witnessing the change that our work had within our community. It was great to meet people who understood the challenges I faced daily, who really got it.

“I am really enjoying my new role with Thomas Pocklington Trust. It is a privilege to support our volunteer members to create positive change so that blind and partially sighted people can live the lives they want to live.

“A highlight has been meeting all our wonderful members across the three Sight Loss Councils in the north. I am excited to start working on our projects across our three SLCs in Yorkshire and Humberside. In particular this includes helping to organise our ‘Let’s Get Active’ multi-sports event which will be taking place later this year.”


Belle during a holiday to Jamaica in 2022. She is wearing a brown sundress and is standing at the entrance of a pathway, surrounded by green trees and shrubs.

Belle during a holiday to Jamaica in 2022


About Sight Loss Councils

Sight Loss Councils are led by blind and partially sighted members and funded by Thomas Pocklington Trust. We advocate the needs of visually impaired people and work to improve access to goods and services at a local and national level.

Learn more


Join us

Passionate about making a difference? Want to influence positive change? Our Sight Loss Councils, led by blind and partially sighted volunteers, are recruiting new members. Join us today!

We use our lived experience to create positive change for others. Together, we tackle local issues and work with businesses and service providers to improve the accessibility of their services.

Join us to help ensure visually impaired people in your area can live the lives they want to lead.

You’ll get the opportunity to create positive change for others, meet like-minded people, have a voice, feel valued, receive training and learn or enhance your skills. Whether you’re interested in public speaking or honing your social media skills, there’s something for everyone to get involved in.



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Publication date: 06 July 2023

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