Volunteers' Week 2020 - Key Workers

Posted by Victoria Leedham

Key workers

To give thanks to our incredible volunteers who are also key workers, we would like to introduce three volunteers who recount their view from the frontline as well as tell us more about their voluntary role at Hearing Dogs...

Lauren Joireman

KW Lauren & Nancy.jpg

“As a first-time puppy trainer I had Nancy, a lovely black Labrador from January 2018 until she went into training at the Beatrice Wright Centre in Yorkshire in June 2019. We had an amazing journey together - especially for me who had grown up frightened of dogs! Since Nancy I have done quite a lot of short-term cover which has been good, and I've discovered that I'm truly a Lab girl at heart!

I was so delighted when she passed her HDA earlier this year and I was due to go and say a final farewell with my family in April ... then Coronavirus happened. I am a part-time Intensive Care Nurse but when the virus hit I suddenly went to full time. Words like gruelling, exhausting, uncomfortable (so uncomfortable wearing full PPE) and heart breaking come to mind. I used to look after and be very busy with one critically ill patient but now I am looking after 2 or 3 at a time. In particular the frustration of not being able to give my patients all round excellent care is so hard, as well as relatives not being able to visit their loved ones, many of whom didn't survive - it's been a very distressing time.

Now that the peak has passed it seems like a very very bad dream and as with many of my colleagues, I am still trying to process what happened. In the midst of this challenging time I decided to make a photo album of my journey with Nancy, one for her recipient and one for me and I can honestly say it has been a lovely and helpful distraction. Going through all the photos I had taken of Nancy - and there are such a lot of them - has brought back such happy memories and I do think it’s definitely been something that has brought me joy during this difficult time. I hope to still go and visit Nancy when the lifting of restrictions allow and look forward to doing more short-term cover in the future. I am very thankful for the privilege of being a volunteer puppy trainer and part of the Hearing Dogs community.”

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We want to thank Lauren for all of her incredibly hard and inspiring work, not only as a volunteer but as a key worker. We can’t begin to imagine how difficult it must be being an Intensive Care Nurse, and we salute Lauren for all she is doing. We’re so glad that Nancy continues to bring Lauren so much joy and we can’t wait to see them reunited one day.


John Maloney

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"I work part time in a local Tesco store and am part of the Dairy Team. During the COVID-19 Crisis, my role has also led to me helping people who are shopping for others. As a family, we are also Volunteer Puppy Trainers for Spaniel pup Spencer. He is only 6 months old and it’s great to see him grow and develop - he is a wonderful distraction and I also get a lovely greeting from him when I get home from work.

He helps to keep us fit; I usually enjoy watching football - I am able to compensate for the lack of football by playing a game in the garden with Spencer. He of course supports Team Hearing Dogs who wear burgundy colours!

I usually help with fundraising when I can and have missed being able to raise money and awareness of the Charity through talks, fashion shows, supermarket collections and the like. Whilst I have gained time during the Crisis to do some much needed gardening and jobs around the house, I do miss the social aspects of our role i.e. meeting up with our fellow volunteer puppy trainers, going to a coffee shop and having refreshments whilst our hearing dog puppy is practising their settling skills.

During the crisis, I have found Hearing Dogs to be very supportive of their volunteers. We had very clear guidance early on to help us care for Spencer and look after ourselves. We have had to adapt and now use Microsoft Teams to access Virtual Puppy Classes and one-to-ones with our Dog Trainer, Karina Bird. This is something that we have never done before. There's also been plenty of online guidance and ideas to help with keeping Spencer entertained and happy so that he can be a life-changing Hearing Dog who will help his deaf partner reconnect with the world.” 

We applaud John for his hard work as a key worker in Tesco and are so glad that he has smiley Spencer to come home to after what must be a very stressful day at work. Thank you John & Deborah for keeping up with Spencer's training during lockdown and adjusting to new ways of volunteering at this time.


Carys Wall

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Yvonne Wall with hearing dog puppy Opal writing about her daughter Carys:

“Carys has worked full time at Morrisons for over 12 years. When I got my letter to "shield" for a minimum of 12 weeks she stepped up to help. We discussed moving our lovely puppy Opal to another volunteer home, but Carys said she would do her walks every day so I could continue to care for her.

My Trainer said Opal could go out every other day, but we all know how much exercise Working Cocker Spaniels need! Carys works early and late shifts, getting up at 05.00 or getting home between 21.00-22.00. If on a late shift she will walk Opal before work, if on an early shift she will walk her after work, and when it's her day off Opal gets 2 walks. This has been a great distraction for Carys because she has got to know some of the other local dog walkers, so Opal has been able to see other dogs. If the park is busy she will take Opal on a road walk (even though she had been up since 5am). Carys also has done our food shopping and for friends and family when they were having trouble getting some necessary items. Carys is even now helping me with Opal's soundwork too, I don't knpw what I'd have done without her!”

Yvonne and all of us at Hearing Dogs want to thank Carys for all of her amazing help with Opal. It can’t be easy whilst also being a key worker, but we’re so glad that Opal’s walks have brought Carys a welcome distraction and a loving way to help her mum.

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About the author

Victoria Leedham

Hello, I’m Victoria and Head of Volunteering at Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. It’s my privilege to celebrate and share stories about our wonderful volunteer family.

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