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Tauranga student forms friendship over reading for blind


Shirley Macdonald is blind. She doesn’t “feel like she is blind”, but when COVID-19 put the country into lockdown, she started to feel the weight of her impaired sight.

Stuck in her retirement village room, unable to eat outside of it, and with no one visiting, Shirely started to feel blue. But there was a light and it cam in the form of Lauren Scullin.

“Reading to Shirley has been an amazing part of my life,” Lauren said. For two and half years, 17 year old Lauren has been reading to Shirley every Saturday. While it started off as an act of service for Lauren to gain her Gold Award, they have formed a strong friendship.

So when the pair were forced apart by lockdown, they found a way to keep up the connection. For a moment, Lauren thought it would be easy enough to read through the window, but the more sensible option was to read over the phone.

It was quickly arranged for a book to be dropped off to Lauren from Shirley’s own collection.

The pair spent half an hour on the phone each Saturday. It is so important to them both that Shirley told her friends and relatives no one can interrupt during their reading time.

Shirley does have audiobooks she can listen to however she said the books Lauren read, many of which are biographies of influential New Zealanders, allowed her to reminisce on the times when she was younger.

“It just opens another door,” Shirley said. “It was one of my brighter times during lockdown”.