North East Sensory Services (Ness) is one of Aberdeen’s oldest charities, being established in 1879 to support local blind people.
Since then, its remit and reach has grown significantly and, while it still sticks to its original objective – to seek out the blind, visit them in their homes, teach them to read and supply them with scriptures and other books free of charge – it also provides support for hearing-impaired people, and has expanded its geographical area to include Moray, Angus, Dundee, Perth and Kinross.
The organisation was recognised for its commitment to the community at the Elevator Awards 2015, where it won the Alick Buchanan-Smith Enterprising Communities Award.
The award, which is in memory of the late Alick Buchanan-Smith, former MP for Kincardine and Deeside, recognises an organisation which demonstrates a strong commitment to its local community by the way it engages and interacts with its operating environment.
Fundraising co-ordinator Neil Skene said: “Ness has 50 staff and around 100 volunteers, who work tirelessly every day to support deaf and blind people in the north-east.
“We have offices in Aberdeen, Dundee and Elgin and we provide vital services to people who have either been born with or developed a visual or hearing impairment.
“Although it has been helping people in Aberdeen since 1879, Ness is not a particularly well-known charity outwith our community, and the decision to enter the awards was also driven by our desire to tell more people about what we do.
The charity runs the Young Person’s Sensory Service (YPSS), which enables youngsters with serious sensory loss to experiment and tackle challenges in a safe, welcoming environment, from babies to teenagers.
“Young people with hearing or sight loss often feel excluded as meeting people, making friends, forming relationships and school life can be difficult. The YPSS provides a variety of services, including a youth club and residential programmes, to help young people feel more included.”
The charity decided to enter last year’s Elevator Awards to give something back to the staff and supporters.
“We entered the Elevator Awards to give our staff and volunteers the recognition they deserve.
“Everyone at Ness was delighted to win, as were our service users. It also gave us a great deal of publicity, which helps us to provide support to more people, but also helps our fundraising events and essential donations.”
At the heart of the organisation is a dedication to ensuring that blind and deaf people across the north-east can lead more independent lives. Some 20% of Ness staff have sensory impairments, including the CEO, and there are over 100 equally committed volunteers at Ness who give their time freely to help in their community.
The Alick Buchanan-Smith Enterprising Communities Award and nine other Elevator Award categories commending business success and entrepreneurial excellence in the north-east of Scotland is open for applications until March 11. Applications can be submitted at www.elevatorawards.com.