Volunteer of the Month - June 2022 - Matina Henchley
Posted by Victoria Leedham
What a joyful volunteer Matina Henchley is! She’s full of smiles in real life, and her online presence is equally as sunny – always posting witty captions with great photos, one of which made it into the Hearing Dogs Calendar a few years back.
Matina really is a lovely person and Hearing Dogs for Deaf People has been lucky enough to count her in our volunteer family since 2016 when she signed up as a Volunteer Puppy Trainer.
Caroline Ayres, Dog Training Instructor, says: “Matina is always happy to help, and often goes above and beyond. She’s done everything from full time puppy training, to helping out with numerous holiday cover requests, to speaking on behalf of the charity, to nursing poorly dogs back to health after injury”.
It’s a big remit Matina kindly covers and let’s not forget abseiling down Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth not long after joining us in 2017, where her super sponsorship raised well over £1,600! (Pictured below with fellow intrepid abseiler Bob Bowyer.)
Dog Training Instructor, Neha Srivastava, confirms Matina’s dedication:
“She has been totally committed to all five all the full-time pups she’s trained, as well as her short-term holiday guests as well. Each one she cares for and progresses through the training levels in a considerate and appropriate manner.
Matina’s ability means she is quite independent and doesn’t need much staff support, however she is great with following advice and always ensures progress, welfare and training notes are up to date.
Over and above this, Matina is proactive and builds beautiful relations with other volunteers and their dogs. She has voluntarily helped me with my new volunteers, helping them build confidence and giving advice by going out on walks or practising café settles. She has been kindness itself in a couple of these instances, and forthcoming with coffees and cuddles from puppy Drew when she’s spotted a hug might be required.”
Fellow volunteer Karen Haxton says: “I first met Matina at puppy class when we got our first hearing dog puppy Jasper. As she lives near me, she asked if I would like to meet and go for a walk with her and her lovely puppy Drew.
She helped me a lot with trusting to let Jasper off lead by myself; at the time I was worried in case he didn’t come back! Matina encouraged me to do it and having her out walking with me gave me the confidence I needed - his recall is great now and we have lots of lovely walks together.
She did an amazing job training Drew who is moving towards being partnered with his deaf recipient, and she’s someone who will always make time for others amid her busy life. She has been, and still is, a great help to me and we have become good friends.”
Alison Smith is another volunteer who appreciates her kindness: “Matina was incredibly supportive and provided helpful information when my husband and I took on our first pup Sherlock. She made time for us, and we met up even when her trainee at the time, Kingsley, was recovering from leg surgery and requiring various hospital and physiotherapy appointments.
When our second pup Brie moved on early this year, Matina was there with tea and hugs, and invited me on walks with herself and puppy Drew. It was exactly the emotional support I needed.”
Matina really is a ray of sunshine and wonderful representative for Hearing Dogs in Hertfordshire. When more regularly engaged with speaker booking before Covid, she would delight audiences like the North Hertfordshire Ramblers and impress with the skills of whichever dog-in-training she had at the time. We are looking forward to that taking off again shortly and know for sure she will be a popular booking!
Most importantly however, the dedication of volunteers like Matina leads to creating more life-changing hearing dogs for deaf people. Isabel McCann, partnered with Sound Support Dog Kingsley says:
“We took on Kingsley in March and he has brought so much happiness to the whole family; everyone loves him. He is a real character, highly intelligent and his communication skills amuse everyone. His sound work is very good. He must have been a very lively puppy; Matina did a wonderful job looking after while he was a boisterous boy. He has brought life to our home, and we are very happy to have him.”
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