Volunteer of the Month - March 2024 - Sandra Milivojev

Posted by Victoria Leedham

Sandra Milivojev has volunteered within Hearing Dogs for Deaf People’s Cheshire hub since its inception. She is hugely involved in many aspects of our work, not only in terms of actively doing (as a Volunteer Puppy Trainer, Buddy Volunteer, and Fundraiser), but also in making things better and improving the organisation (as a member of the Operations Volunteer Focus Group).

Each step of the way, and in every setting, Sandra is highly thought of by staff and volunteers alike. She is lots of fun to work with, extremely committed, and has a real eye for detail!

Hearing Dogs is exceptionally grateful for the amount of time and dedication she gives to her volunteering and welcoming newcomers, alongside her busy life where she is also a Beavers Scouts leader and a member of a local speakers’ club.

Fellow volunteer Janet Ratcliffe says: “I first met Sandra when I was a new Volunteer Puppy Trainer, and she was assigned as my ‘buddy’. I couldn’t have had better support; Sandra has so much experience and guided me through those early days. She is now a great friend and my go-to person to help out with any fundraising events - her individual Pupcakes are legendary!”

Upon joining our volunteer family back in 2015, Sandra brought some previous dog experience having had a Spaniel as a family pet when she was growing up. With concerns about allergies in adult life, we jointly decided Sandra would be best placed looking after a Poodle.

Nine years and six dogs later, Sandra is our resident Poodle and Cockerpoo expert! She’s relished getting to know the different personalities of the four Poodles and two Cockerpoos she has worked with and fully appreciates that no two dogs are the same, saying: “Even when you think you know a Poodle, they like to throw a curveball to keep you on your toes!”

Sandra is always willing to help other volunteers, especially those who are new, or those with Poodles! She readily lends an understanding, listening ear to anyone adjusting to life with a young puppy, and generously offers additional support visits to volunteers who are needing a boost. As such, Sandra was an early member of our Buddy Scheme; her peer support being a cornerstone of the Cheshire hub’s community spirit.  

Ingrid Fichardt has recently joined that community: “I am brand new to Hearing Dogs and have my first puppy, a gorgeous Poodle named Ruby. I have never trained a working dog before, nor had any previous experience of Poodles, so when I met Sandra at my very first, introductory class I immediately learnt a huge amount - even before Ruby arrived! I have had many long conversations with her since; her advice and support are incredible.

Sandra definitely understands the challenges of a new puppy and particularly Poodles. She shares her experience and knowledge willingly, and it is very reassuring to know she is just a phone call or dog walk away.”

In terms of her own training, Sandra has worked with some very characterful dogs, and a number of puppy behaviours, that have required additional time, effort and - not to mention - admin to record and track their progress. Sandra always takes on such challenges with good humour and determination, ensuring she follows the training plan to the letter, and being flexible enough to change tack and try something else if needs be.

James Jones, Canine Healthcare Consultant, is appreciative: “Sandra is a wonderful volunteer who takes on board any given guidance. She is quick to alert me to any health issues of the dog she is looking after, and is very detailed and thorough in her reports, including delightful descriptions of their motions!

She has an amazing sense of humour, evidenced by our exchanges of puns on recent trainee Iggy's name. Examples include: Iggy Mop (when he was due a haircut), Iggy Chop (when he had his haircut) and Iggy Op (when neutered)!"

Not only is Sandra good fun and a joy to work with, she is also one of those marvellous people who can think on their feet and problem solve without fuss. Pupcakes for an event tomorrow you say? No problem! Sandra is on it. 

In another example, Senior Puppy Training Instructor Michelle Taylor was taken by surprise when - doing some group work around public transport - one volunteer boarded the bus, and her husband mentioned it was her 70th birthday… that day!

Put on the spot, Michelle put in a text to Sandra, who raced to the shops and was waiting, with cake and candle, at the bus stop when the group and birthday girl returned from the trip!

As a nod to her people-focused thinking and valuable experience, Sandra was invited to join our Operations Volunteer Focus Group. The group meets monthly to give their thought on processes and support materials for the wider Hearing Dogs volunteer community. Sandra took to this role with aplomb, unleashing her extraordinary attention to detail to advise on alignment, font, graphics, branding, and grammar in particular!

In yet another string to her bow, Gaynor Cavanagh, Community Fundraising Manager, describes Sandra as “one of those volunteers we just cannot function without”.

Gaynor continues: “Sandra is one of our local volunteer fundraising stars! Nothing is too much trouble; she represents the charity with endless positivity and will always help when she can.

The list of her involvement is long; however she has represented Hearing Dogs within organisations who have chosen us as their charity of the year, volunteered at bucket collections, visited groups to talk about our work, supported local events, taken part in Great British Dog Walks and even trekked across Morecambe Bay to raise money to change the lives of deaf people.

I am incredibly grateful to have Sandra on our local team, and beyond. She has connected with another volunteer more than 40 miles away over their shared love of Poodles, which even led to her travelling to support fundraising efforts in West Yorkshire as well!

Senior Puppy Training Instructor Michelle concludes: “Sandra has been with me from the start, is a really important part of our group and a credit to the Cheshire Hub. I am so grateful for her ongoing support, humour and positive attitude – thanks Sandra you’re the best!”

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About the author

Victoria Leedham

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

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