This National Volunteer Week, June 21-27, we shine a light on our volunteers and the roles they play in empowering people who are blind, deafblind or have low vision live the life they choose.
Guide Dog Kennel and Breeding Centre volunteers at Guide Dogs, Manurewa, Auckland play a significant role in the life of guide dogs. If you were conjuring up images of volunteers spending their time cuddling cute puppies and larger dogs, you couldn’t be further from the truth.
Their work is actually quite physical and involves washing bowls, towels, bedding, sorting and stacking newspaper, cleaning toys and other tasks as requested by our staff. Our volunteers support Blind Low Vision NZ Guide Dog staff to keep the kennels clean and hygienic at all times.
They get quality time with the dogs when they take the adult dogs for their free run or walk them in the local area. Breeding Centre volunteers get to socialize the pups. This means our few weeks’ old puppies get used to being around people and are prepared to face the world as they go on to their puppy raising families.
Thank you Kennel and Breeding Centre volunteers for your hard work! Along with Puppy Raisers, Breeding Stock Guardians and Boarders, you are an important part in the lives of our guide dogs.
Jillian Eyles from Nelson has been a volunteer for three and a half years. In such a short time, Jillian has managed to cover a wide range of volunteering activities. This includes recreation events, driving support to events, one on one with members, helping with the budget and finance for the Nelson Christmas lunch and helping on the day itself. Jillian is versatile and always willing to help with any task. Nothing is ever too much!
Westport volunteer and member Chrissy Fern is always busy assisting others, especially those who are blind or have low vision. Chrissy first began volunteering with Blind Low Vision NZ in Nelson, where she helped organise, and supported members to participate in a blind art exhibition. Chrissy assisted with an Accessible Arts Group, and initiated a Blind and Low Vision NZ Ukulele Learning Programme. She has coordinated both in Nelson and Westport, our Monthly Coffee and Chat Groups, which are a very popular way for our members to catch up socially. Chrissy is also involved with advocacy through her roles on the Nelson Branch Committee and the National Board of Blind Citizens NZ, and has recently started volunteering for Citizens Advice Bureau. With her warm personality and energy, she makes a difference to the lives and wellbeing of many clients.
Pat was introduced to deafblind client, Jack about a decade ago. Their wonderful story of friendship began as Pat accompanied Jack and his dog as a vision support volunteer. Jack knew his surroundings well and Pat would accompany him for walks. During their walks, they took time to sit on the bench by the lake where Pat would describe the yachts, kayaks or waka being paddled.
There was a lot of bird-life to be observed such as ducks, finches, fantails, tui, rosellas and the occasional herons and hawks. Somedays Jack stopped to hug a pohutukawa or a totara tree or felt the leaves of a magnolia or a willow tree, or even handled the acorns from the oaks.
Over the years, the walks have reduced. Pat visits Jack at his home. “I just sit with Jack and we chat about everything under the sun and I try to keep him up to date with news, both local and international. Being fairly deaf myself, we chuckle about misunderstandings we suffer when not hearing what the other has said, and giving nonsensical responses occasionally, but we are quite tolerant of each other and I certainly enjoy being a friend to him and like to think the feeling is reciprocated”. Pat hopes his visits and friendship can continue as long as possible and was most thrilled about Alert Level 1 which means he can visit his friend once again!
Alison first started supporting Blind Low Vision NZ ten years ago as a Red Puppy Sponsor. She then became a volunteer, boarding guide dog puppies, and in 2009 she was offered the role of Area Coordinator for Blind Low Vision NZ’s street appeals. Since then, she’s organised two collections a year in Porirua, helping raise an incredible $48,441 for people with vision loss! In 2012 Alison also took on the role of Collection Box Volunteer, looking after collection boxes at stores and cafes around town. Her favorite part about her volunteer fundraising roles is the opportunity she has to meet people in the Wellington area, develop relationships, and be involved with guide dogs! Alison still does all three roles to this day.
Join our volunteer family and check out these opportunities.