THE founder and chairman of a support group in Wokingham is stepping down from her role - before setting sail to Australia.

Amanda Payne, 51, set up the The Friendship and Support Team (FaST) five years ago, which helps adults in the borough with sensory and physical disabilities.

She founded the group after she suffered eyesight problems herself, which were later cured.

Mrs Payne, who has lived in Emmbrook for 16 years, said: "My sight didn't go completely but it got to the stage where if I put my hands in front of my face I couldn't see my fingers.

"I realise how lucky I am to have it [sight] because there's so many things you can't do - you can't just decide to get on a train." She added the past five years had been "extremely worthwhile" seeing the group's 30 volunteers helping other people. The group organises activities including book club, walking group, coffee mornings and restaurant trips - and helps people to be less isolated by providing transport and other assistance.

Mrs Payne said: "Sitting and talking to other people is good. Lots of people have said how great it is that they are able to do things." Mrs Payne plans on stepping down as chairman in October and is urging someone to come forward and take over.

She said: "I've been doing it for five years but need to step down. I have had a great committee supporting me and it is very rewarding.

"I will be around until May so anyone taking the role will not be left high and dry." Mrs Payne now plans on taking on a new challenge by sailing with her husband to Australia on the couple's 45 foot catamaran. She said: "We have been saving money for quite a little while and want to do it. When I had my eyesight problems you realise time is of the essence." The couple plan on sailing to Australia and back in the next few years.

They hope to travel to the Canary Islands next May, to the Caribbean in the winter and then on to Australia before returning to England.

If you would like to join FaST or fill the role of chairman, you can contact the group on 0118 357 3570.