Why volunteering does good and feels good, by Esther Porta, Seeing Dogs Volunteer
As a PR consultant for over 26 years, my work often involves working long hours with international high-profile brands and media to address complicated issues, often demanding fast-turnaround, precision, accuracy and, always, sensitivity and understanding. However, I have been involved in volunteering for years now, and there’s always a way of making time for it.
I first began volunteering for Seeing Dogs in 2014 when I was keen to share my knowledge and experience of the pioneering and game-changing animal-related Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) work I helped deliver for the Korean multinational, Samsung, with the charity.
During my time with Samsung, I had worked closely with organisations like Guide Dogs, Dogs for Good (formerly Dogs for the Disabled), the Kennel Club and many other leading UK and international animal related organisations and charities to help raise awareness about the importance of the human-animal partnership and Samsung’s work to drive positive change and improve the relationship between people and companion animals, especially dogs, in South Korea.
Thanks to some of the UK and international experts I had the pleasure of meeting and working with and my understanding of the pet-ownership and companion animal space, I was keen to try to share that wealth of knowledge, experience and understanding with an organisation which might benefit from it.
I had spoken to Seeing Dogs Trustee, Neil Ewart, with whom I had closely liaised about about the establishment of the Samsung Guide Dog School for the Blind in Korea, who asked if I might like to come on board as a Trustee at Seeing Dogs.
I did, and I was hooked, and I have been ever since!
Learning new things and sharing your experience
Whether it’s editing the Seeing Dogs newsletter, Lead On, or looking after the charity’s PR activity and online presence, the skills I developed across all my voluntary activities stand me in great stead for the work I do every day for all my clients. (It has even helped my win some amazing new clients in the animal welfare and consumer healthcare sectors as I can demonstrate the work I produce for the charity which often addresses complicated and sensitive issues).
From working with the Board of Trustees and understanding the issues affecting blind and partially sighted owners, or liaising with breeders, puppy walkers, or our Seeing Dog Trainer, the overriding feeling I get from volunteering is that I’m doing something I really enjoy and doing something that ultimately makes a difference.
Small is our strength!
What I love about Seeing Dogs is that it is a perfect example of a smaller charity that ‘showed up’ and then ‘stuck around’, using its position of trust and expertise to deliver a personalised service delivery to support the people it works with. We have a distinctive ethos, and this includes building person-centred relationships with clients and the people we work with, being known for known for having an ‘open door approach’ with our seeing dog users and understanding the issues they might face, and for being quick to make decisions thanks to having a flatter management structure.
Phrases like ‘doing good does good’ or ‘doing good feels good’ couldn’t be more true. Volunteering will make you feel good because you will end up benefiting from volunteering just as much as the people you are supposed to be helping.
I’ve gained so much, and I’d recommend everyone to get involved in volunteering. Just go for it!