Volunteers' Week #VolunteerVoices 2022

Posted by Isabelle Cottle

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Volunteers' Week is always a great opportunity to recognise the contribution our fantastic volunteers make towards helping deaf people leave loneliness behind and reconnect with life through our personalised services and incredible dogs.

This year is extra special given it's the charity's 40th Anniversary.

To celebrate Volunteers' Week 2022 we asked some volunteers who have recently had their fortieth birthday, or are turning 40 this year, to tell us about their volunteer role and also how they’re celebrating being the same age as Hearing Dogs!

We’ll release these nice insights as #VolunteerVoices blog posts throughout the week. Do tune in daily or catch up at the end of the week...

Happy 40th Birthday to...

Will Rice - Volunteer Puppy Trainer

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"We heard about Hearing Dogs for Deaf People through a friend who does short term dog care. They encouraged us to find out more about volunteering as they knew we would love the charity and felt that the role would fit well our lifestyle. We quickly became full time Volunteer Puppy Trainers and saw Dixie through her training in 2020. We are now on our second dog, Wynstan, who started his training journey in March of this year. 

Volunteering for Hearing Dogs has been a wonderful experience. The biggest benefit for us is seeing the dogs grow and learn, and watching their personalities and skills develop. We’ve loved spending time with the dogs we’ve been involved with – they have completely brightened up our lives. We are very proud that Dixie is now living with her deaf partner and it's so rewarding to know we've been part of her journey. We can't wait to do the same with Wynstan."

And what of Will's birthday? Jacqui, Will's wife, tells all:

"Will's birthday celebrations, much like Hearing Dogs' anniversary, are being spread throughout the whole year! On his 40th we went to Painshill Park in Cobham with Wynstan and our pet dog Akiko for a beautiful walk around their gardens.

In addition to the other usual family celebrations and parties, Will is a board game fanatic and so he has already had a weekend of board-gaming with friends. We also have a few trips away planned to the Peak District and the New Forest, which will no doubt entail lots of long dog walks with Wynstan, Akiko and even more board games!"

Maria Kazanji - Training from Home volunteer & member of staff

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"My husband and I have been volunteers with Hearing Dogs for Deaf People for almost seven years now. We started as Bed & Breakfast volunteers and enjoyed opening our home to different dogs while they were in their final stages of training. 

We are now Training From Home volunteers and really love having a dog around all the time. Over the last seven years we have looked after six dogs that have gone on to change the lives of deaf people. The sense of pride is immeasurable; it's such a rewarding experience.

We are now looking after our seventh dog, Cupid, a two year old Cocker Spaniel, who is certainly keeping us on our toes! 

For my 40th birthday, my husband organised a surprise glamping weekend away in Kent where we stayed in a beautiful luxury dome. It was amazing! We were able to take Cupid away with us, and he loved looking out at the open fields while laying next to the log burner. It was a magical way to celebrate." 

Jay Hrycak - Charity Support Dog Holder, Brood Fosterer & member of staff

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"My mum joined Hearing Dogs for Deaf People in 2017 as a Volunteer Puppy Trainer who eventually kept on her first dog, Nova, as she was chosen to become hearing dog mum. The brood fostering role has now become part of my whole family's life, which we all love being able to do together.

Over the last four years I have been lucky enough to be involved in the whelp and care of Nova’s three gorgeous litters affectionately known as the ‘Christmas Cheeses’ B litter in 2018, the ‘Covid Krazy’ K litter in 2020, and we have just said goodbye to the ‘Edible’ E litter.

Even though it’s a lot of hard work with many nights of broken sleep, there is no doubt that it’s worth it. It’s been a magical experience each time. 

I also volunteer with my own Cocker Spaniel, Nyx, who is an Ambassador Dog for the Charity. Alongside my mum and Nova, we also help out at local fundraising events in Milton Keynes. 

For my 40th I kept it pretty low key as things were still Covid-cautious, however I did spend it with family and friends doing an escape room experience and going out for a nice meal. My mum also treated me to a spa day! It wasn’t the huge party I might have had, had we not been in the current global situation that we are, but I had a lovely time nonetheless.

This year also marks my 15th year working for Hearing Dogs, the actual anniversary falling just a few days after Volunteers’ Week, so I have lots to celebrate alongside the Charity!"

Craig Fisher - Hearing Link Services volunteer & member of staff

"My volunteering roles within Hearing Link have been varied to say the least!

As a LinkUp volunteer I have helped keep the programme running smoothly both in the background and through working directly with our beneficiaries. I have a keen interest in technology and I love to show our LinkUp participants the ways in which they can use it to help with living with their hearing loss. However, over and above all that, I'm there as a supportive presence, able to share my own journey with hearing loss and to show participants that they are not alone.

I have also answered questions on our Helpdesk, and gone along to local events to spread awareness about Hearing Link Services. It was through volunteering my time helping with the Hearing Link website several years ago, which led me to my current role as a member of staff at Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, taking care of our roster of websites and other digital initiatives.

Volunteering opened my world up, and I am grateful for all the opportunities it has afforded me. Starting as I did as a beneficiary of a Hearing Link programme myself, it is thanks to the volunteers I met there that I have been able to come so far and it is my wish that I continue that same tradition in helping others along too.

I will be celebrating my fortieth birthday later this year. I don’t know quite yet what form it will take, but I do know that I will be spending it with good friends around me, so many of whom I have met through volunteering events and activities over the last 10 years. We have so much in common based on our shared experience of living with hearing loss and deafness. Before volunteering with Hearing Link I had never really met others who could relate so well to me and I to them."

Zoe & Gareth Bradford - Volunteer Puppy Trainers

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"Gareth and myself are Volunteer Puppy Trainers currently looking after the gorgeous Kimmy, our very first hearing dog pup, who has been with us since September 2021.

We decided to start volunteering as I was looking for something that would give me a new interest and an opportunity to meet new people. As a family we absolutely love dogs, and already have our own Labrador, Lexie, who is four. 

As mine and Gareth's 40th birthdays are quite close together, we planned various joint celebrations throughout the year. The first celebration included a luxury night's stay at The Grove in Watford.

I also arranged a surprise weekend with our extended families in Somerset. We hired a whole B&B and sixteen of us stayed there for two nights which was wonderful. We also enjoyed various other mini-celebrations with friends and work colleagues too!"

Andy Webb - Brood Fosterer

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"My girlfriend and I started our wonderful relationship with Hearing Dogs for Deaf People as Volunteer Puppy Trainers stating a preference for a Labrador – famously that most genial of breeds. 

However along came Lara, a Working Cocker Spaniel with a mind for mischief, needing a 'temporary' place to stay. 

We assumed we were more than a match for this 8-week-old, highly intelligent bundle of energy, and threw ourselves into the training and socialisation aspects of our volunteering role with relish.

Weeks turned into months, and when Hearing Dogs began to suggest Lara may have the potential to become a hearing dog mum, we realised that she had become absolutely and utterly integral to not just our lives, but also those of our closest family and friends.

Eventually we had the news that Lara had passed all the necessary tests and requirements to become a fully-fledged hearing dog mum. Her role is to have puppies who will go on to be the hearing dogs of the future, and our lucky role is to look after her forever.

So, this is where we find ourselves today; Lara has just turned four, had her first litter of puppies last summer, and is due her second in a few weeks' time! She has proved to be a natural and excellent mummy. 

Our role isn’t a taxing one. We get to foster a gorgeous, characterful, and utterly charming dog 24/7… and we perpetually get to love teeny tiny Spaniel pups until they’re ready to venture into the wider world.

And as for my 40th… well I spent it lunching with Lara, of course! Any day without her would be a wasted one."

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About the author

a smiling woman and a labrador dog in a field

Hi, I’m Isabelle and I handle our volunteer enquiries. It’s a joy to be able to get to know our fab volunteers and keep everyone up to date on all the amazing things they do for Hearing Dogs and Hearing Link! 

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