Meet two younger members of our volunteer family

Posted by Isabelle Cottle

Hearing Dogs is incredibly lucky to have over 3,000 amazing volunteers across the UK. Just 1% fall into the 18-29 age bracket but their impact and energy are immeasurable, and we are delighted to have several different ways that young supporters can get involved with the charity.

Ellie Zelisko is one of our younger Volunteer Puppy Trainers along with her mum Morag, who introduced Ellie to the charity when they got their first hearing dog puppy, Izzy, when Ellie was still at school. After Izzy moved on, Morag and Ellie (now aged 23) became ‘puppy nannies’, taking on 8-week-old hearing dog puppies and looking after them until they had been matched to their full-time Volunteer Puppy Trainers, as well as taking on dogs for holiday cover.

Bouncy Labrador Biscuit joined the Zelisko household in March 2020 and was only meant to be staying a few weeks, but as the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns went on for longer than expected, Morag and Ellie decided to become Biscuit’s full-time Volunteer Puppy Trainers themselves. Since Ellie was now over 18, and was spending more time at home than away at university due to the lockdown, she was able to become a fully-registered volunteer herself and take on greater responsibility when it came to Biscuit’s training.

Ellie has been majorly involved in Biscuit’s daily training, from taking Biscuit through exercises taught in the weekly puppy classes, to teaching him to stay calm around their pet cat. Most recently, Biscuit has started to practice going into shops and cafés which Ellie does with him around twice a week.

Ellie says: "I love this part of training and Biscuit gets loads of smiles and waves whilst walking round! It’s often a great opportunity to raise awareness for the charity as people often come up and ask us questions about his training."

Volunteering is also a great way to make friends and meet like-minded people. Ellie recounts: "I remember someone calling it a Hearing Dogs ‘family’ and I definitely agree – everyone I’ve met is so friendly and welcoming." In fact, Ellie has found a great friend in another young volunteer, Beth James (aged 21) who is the Volunteer Puppy Trainer of Biscuit’s brother Buddy!

Beth’s involvement with Hearing Dogs began when she completed work experience with one of our dog trainers as part of her college course. As soon as Beth turned 18, she quickly signed up to be a volunteer and has now been part of our volunteer family for almost 3 years, with Buddy being the second dog she and her mum, Jayne, have trained.

The very handsome Buddy came to Beth and Jayne when he was 6 months old during the first lockdown. Like Ellie and Biscuit, Beth finds opportunities to further Buddy’s training throughout the day. They start with practising Buddy’s recall during morning walks, then focusing on attaining his 'pup star awards' which include his sound work and general obedience, as well as having plenty of time for play and cuddles of course!

Ellie and Beth started communicating via Instagram and decided to meet up for a walk with Biscuit and Buddy who were so excited to be reunited!

Along with Biscuit and Buddy, they now regularly meet up at The Grange, share achievements and advice, and have even done some training together such as taking the dogs to a train station for the very first time. Beth and Ellie describe that it’s great having another person to chat to who also has a similar lifestyle, interests and commitments to higher education.

Involvement in our social media is a great way for Hearing Dogs to reach more people, explain what the charity does and gain more support. Having volunteers like Ellie and Beth who regularly post wonderful content of their hearing dog trainees is hugely beneficial for the charity.

Ellie and Beth both have Instagram accounts for their pups, @hdpuppybiscuit and @hdpuppybuddy, and regularly share their progress, along with adorable pictures and videos. They have both been able to reach people who hadn’t necessarily heard of the charity before, spread awareness about training hearing dogs for deaf people, and show what it’s like to be part of our welcoming volunteer family.

There are also plenty of opportunities for young supporters to get involved in fundraising for Hearing Dogs. Ellie and Beth have taken part in lots of organised fundraising initiatives, and also come up with their own!

Ellie and Biscuit made and sold fantastic dog-friendly Christmas crackers in December 2020, raising over £300 for Hearing Dogs.

Ellie and Beth then also virtually teamed up to take part in our 28 Challenge in February 2021, completing daily tasks and challenges with brothers Biscuit and Buddy, sharing their progress and photos online - which not only brought smiles to so many faces, but also raised over £1,000 for Hearing Dogs!

There are numerous ways for other younger adults like Ellie and Beth to get involved with Hearing Dogs. Whether it’s volunteer dog care, fundraising, social media or other microvolunteering support, it all contributes towards our purpose of helping more deaf people leave loneliness behind and reconnect with life.

If you’d like to see what volunteering opportunities we have available near you, please visit our volunteering and microvolunteering pages to see how you can get involved.

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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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