Feeling Connected

We spoke to Victoria Leedham – Volunteering Manager at Hearing Dogs for Deaf People – who tells us why Volunteers’ Week and being with others is important…

“Volunteers’ Week is a chance to celebrate and say thank you for the fantastic contribution volunteers are making in Buckinghamshire and across the UK.

Over three thousand volunteers are now involved in the work of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People and Hearing Link, and I’d like to thank every member of these happily merged organisations for helping to make an incredible difference to the lives of deaf people and those with hearing loss.

Hearing Dogs and Hearing Link believe no deaf nor hearing-impaired person should feel lonely or isolated, and to my mind there is no better community than the volunteer family to exemplify that sentiment. As community minded people, volunteers connect and network as second nature. It’s a gift of support and kinship that often goes way beyond the parameters of any volunteer role description.

I recently chatted with volunteer Carole Payne with hearing dog Clay at our Beale Park Great British Dog Walk near Reading, she said, “I just love the Hearing Dogs family, these events are so uplifting” and I knew exactly what she meant. The atmosphere was welcoming, deaf friendly and palpably cheerful – it was clear that everyone was enjoying themselves and having a great time.

Like any good party however, it’s the organisation behind it that’s critical: one volunteer had collected the Pupmobile and trailer the night before (and even cleaned it!), others had been baking for days, many arrived at 7am to set up, a whole team had recced the walk weeks beforehand, plus there was a whole host of volunteers greeting walkers with happy smiles and ensuring the smooth running and success of the event. A great team effort, totally reliant on the goodwill of the volunteer family.

It occurs to me that ‘feeling connected’ is at the core of not only what we aim to achieve, but also what most would like to gain from their volunteering experience as well. A sense of belonging and a common purpose can be so important. The NCVO’s national survey on the volunteer experience published in January states that 68% of volunteers agree that their volunteering helps them feel less isolated, and that 89% of volunteers meet new people through their volunteering.

Volunteers’ Week therefore gives me a great opportunity to sincerely thank all Hearing Dogs and Hearing Link volunteers who have warmly welcomed somebody new into our community, who are empathetic through being (or related to) a beneficiary themselves, and who connect with others in any way through their involvement and kindness. Helping others is a truly wonderful thing; ‘it’s uplifting’ as Carole rightly says”.