What it's like to be a My Guide volunteer

My Guide volunteer, Rhys Gorham, was matched with blind veteran John Bower. John, a former British Blind Sport’s National Archery Champion called upon Guide Dogs when his wife became ill and unable to take him to practice. John needed help getting to and from the practice centre and for someone to be his spotter during training.

Here Rhys describes in his own words what it’s like becoming and being a My Guide volunteer:

“Volunteering for Guide dogs was something I had been thinking of doing for quite a while; the problem was I didn’t know in what capacity. I gave my local team a ring to discuss what options there were and spoke to Dave Clough who informed me about a relatively new programme called “My Guide”. He talked me through what it involved and immediately I thought “this is how I what to help”. Training was provided over two separate days which was delivered really well and gave me confidence immediately to venture out and help somebody who needed it.

Rhys Gorham With A Dog In Training

“Pretty quickly I was matched with John, who needed a couple of hours help on a Wednesday to take him to archery practice. At the time I was working full time for my previous employer but luckily my day off was Wednesday so it fell really well for us to be matched. A meet and greet was set up and John couldn’t have been any more welcoming and friendly. He told me a bit of background of what he had been doing with his archery and what he needed from me. The next week we started going together.

“Usually I would say I’m an outgoing person who gets along with anyone and I tried to take this confidence in to my first outing with John. However, the nerves started creeping in before I went to pick him up and questions like “would he like me” and “Would he think I’m a good guide”  were running through my mind. Again though, like the first meeting John made me feel at ease. He was so friendly and conversation just flowed. As the weeks went by my confidence being a guide improved greatly and I found myself almost being on auto pilot when guiding, all helped by how well we got on. John even let me have a go with the bow and arrow, which fairly quickly proved I was hopeless at archery, so I left it to the expert.

“It was really nice to meet the other people who went to the same practice session and I soon realised that it was more than just archery practise to John but also a really nice social meeting as well. This made me feel even better that I was helping somebody like John not only take part in a sport that he was passionate about but to keep in regular contact with friends.

“I would encourage anybody who can spare even just a couple of hours a week to get involved with the My Guide project as these couple of hours can mean so much to someone who would really appreciate it!”

John Bower

Following their My Guide partnership John became the British Blind Sport’s National Archery Champion and Rhys is now working for Guide Dogs as Trainee Guide Dogs Mobility Instructor.

Images show Rhys with a guide dog in training and John practicing his archery