This is a story which Guide Dogs have asked us to publish in tandem with the article which you will find on page 112 of the new issue of Exmoor Magazine, which is out now.
You may well have heard of Guide Dogs, we’re a national charity working to ensure that blind and partially sighted people do not lose their independence. There are around two million people in the UK living with sight loss, and all experience a different level of vision and mobility. We offer a range of mobility services to help people keep their independence, and have an amazing number of dedicated staff, volunteers and, of course, dogs who support the Guide Dogs mission.
One of the services that Guide Dogs runs is called ‘My Guide’. It is a service whereby a trained, sighted (human) guide, is partnered with someone with sight loss. Many people with sight loss need support in gaining confidence to get out and about, and to achieve personal goals. My Guides accompany service users to facilitate tasks such as running errands, practising everyday routes, using public transport, or going to the gym to build confidence in these areas (playing fetch optional!).
Bethany Akielan, My Guide Ambassador, says, “When someone loses their sight, they can also lose confidence; or in the worst cases become socially isolated. Introducing a My Guide into someone’s life makes a real difference. In volunteering a couple of hours a week, it can make the seemingly insurmountable, possible for a service user.”
Guide Dogs provides full training for all volunteers in how to safely sighted guide and a general introduction to sight loss. We have several people waiting to be matched to My Guide partnerships in Exmoor and the surrounding areas. Being a volunteer is a great opportunity to learn new skills, socialise, and broaden your knowledge of supporting someone with a visual impairment.
Suzanne, a service user in Exeter, says, “Jan, my My Guide volunteer, has been invaluable in making my relocation from Sussex to Exeter a positive experience. Moving meant I had to make a mental map of my new surroundings and Jan has been key in supporting my independence in my new home town.”
If you’d be interested in finding out more about My Guide and other volunteering opportunities with Guide Dogs, head to our website: www.guidedogs.org.uk/ and click on ‘How Can I Help’ or call the South West Team on 0345 143 0204.