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The Mutual Benefits of Volunteering!

14/09/2018

'Max and my dog Truffle got on straight away, chasing each other and rolling and tumbling together getting plenty of exercise... I also hit it off with Sonja who was, like me, a chef. We talked a lot after walking dogs over a cuppa...'


Sitting at home comfortably reading The Hundon Herald,our village magazine last October, I noticed an advert from a charity called “Our Special Friends” to walk a dog in the village for someone who was unable to manage due to injury. I walk my dog twice per day, so I thought I might be able to help, and it would be a friend for my dog. This is how I met Max, a gorgeous, friendly black Labrador and his owner Sonja. Sonja had broken her spine, and it was taking a very long time to get better. Off we went for our first tentative walk, but I shouldn’t have worried since Max and my dog Truffle got on straight away, chasing each other and rolling and tumbling together getting plenty of exercise.

 

I also hit it off with Sonja who was, like me, a chef. We talked a lot after walking dogs over a cuppa. Sonja had recently split from her husband and not long moved into the village so she didn’t know anyone and was quite isolated. She never went out despite having some mobility and a car which she is able to drive. She was also suffering from depression and feeling quite low.

 

Since our first encounters, we have been to the community café in the village where I introduced her to many of the villagers. I had to do a presentation to our local WI, and she has now become a member. In addition, she has become a member of the wine club which I attend and is becoming quite well known in the community and has been invited to bowls and other activities in our vibrant village.

 

The upshot of all this is that Sonja is feeling much more positive, has given up the anti-depressants, and is trying to do without her painkillers. She seems to be a lot happier with a much improved outlook, and has certainly gained some self-worth. Sonja has built relationships with others in the village, and is starting to build a social life for herself in small stages. She has become a friend of mine, I help her with tasks around the home and starting her car when the battery is flat, and she helps me a lot buying things online! We have been together with the dogs to let them swim in the river -we’re trying to teach Max to swim- and in the better weather to go somewhere where Sonja can sit and enjoy a change of scene.

I think that both Jan (the other OSF dog walker who has also become a friend of Sonja) and I have made a real difference to Sonja’s life, and she to ours.

The dogs remain great friends too!

 

Chris Burford

 

Since Chris wrote this Volunteer story, we are delighted to hear that Sonja has now got a part time job too, which is fantastic news!