Didcot Guide Dogs association

One of the great things about writing this blog is that I’ve discovered lots of new groups and organisations in Didcot.

I recently met Kara Penny, the co-ordinator of the Didcot branch of the Guide Dogs Association, for a coffee to find out about the group she helps run.

How does the Guide Dogs Association support visually impaired people?

The obvious answer here is with the provision of guide dogs. It costs around £57,000 to breed, train and support a guide dog throughout its life. This includes food, vets fees and training.

Didcot guide dog at Berro Lounge. Photo courtesy of Mark Knight
Didcot guide dog at Berro Lounge. Photo courtesy of Mark Knight

Guide dogs are expensive so the association also offers other services. For example, they run a volunteer system called My Guide, where they match up volunteer guides with visually impaired people. The guides provide assistance with, for example, visits to town or shopping.

What does the Didcot branch of the Guide Dog Association do?

The group was started by a local guide dog user, Sally, a year or so ago and now has about 25 members.

We started with collection tins in Sainsbury’s and have subsequently been invited to give talks, attend events and schools and work with companies as their nominated charity. At the moment we are working with Berro Lounge who are hoping to raise £2500 so that they can name a guide dog puppy.

Didcot Guide Dogs at the Berro Lounge
Didcot Guide Dogs at the Berro Lounge

As well as fundraising we raise awareness of working dogs in the community. For example, did you know you should always ask the handler first before interacting with a guide dog? We also support those in the local community who are visually impaired as it can be a very isolating experience.

Why did you get involved?

I saw an advert on Facebook asking for volunteers and decided to give it a go. I love dogs and have previously worked on the rescue side but never with working dogs. However I knew I had the time and skills to offer, and I now help out with a variety of roles, from co-ordinating events to running our local social media.

Didcot Guide Dogs Association
Didcot Guide Dogs Association

How can I find out more about the group?

We hold bi-monthly meet ups in the Berro Lounge, usually on a Thursday morning. Come along, have a coffee with us (or win one in the Berro raffle), buy a cake and pop a donation into our collection bucket. These meet-ups are for everyone. Visually impaired people in the community might like to come along and talk to people who already have guide dogs or have experienced sight loss. Others might like to pop in to say hello to some of the guide dogs. We also have one gentleman who likes to come and take photographs of the dogs. The meetings are always advertised on the Facebook page, the next ones are on the 13 June and 25 July 2019.

We also run stalls at local events. For example, we’ll be at Harwell Feast on 27 May and Didcot Summer Fayre on 3 August. You’ll be able to meet some of the dogs and find out more about us.

Didcot Guide Dogs Association stand
Didcot Guide Dogs Association stand

Can I volunteer?

Yes, absolutely! We have many roles available and always need volunteers to help out at events. Particularly as these are usually held in the summer when some of our regular volunteers are away.

You can pop along to one of the meet ups to find out more about volunteering. Alternatively look at the volunteer section on the Guide Dogs website as this includes all of the national and local roles. Put your postcode in and search for roles. There’s lots of choice, from puppy walkers and dog boarders to speakers, collection box co-ordinators and sighted guides. Something for everyone!

Raising money for Guide Dogs at Berro Lounge Photo courtesy of Mark Knight
Raising money at Berro Lounge.
Photo courtesy of Mark Knight

How do I get in contact?

Please message us via  the Didcot Guide Dogs Association Facebook page  or email: GDSouthOxford1061@gmail.com

Many thanks Kara for telling us about the Didcot Guide Dogs Association. Would you like me to write about your group, club or charity? If so,  please do message me!

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