My Guide

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


My Guide service hits the spot

A blind veteran from Rotherham is encouraging people to get involved Guide Dogs, sighted guiding service My Guide.

John Bower, 72, has praised the charity’s My Guide service that helped him continue his archery practice.

The 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 with getting to and from the practice centre and for someone to be his spotter during training.

John said: “My ‘My Guide’ volunteer Rhys was great. Not only would he guide me but he helped me set up my equipment and acted as my spotter. Advising me of where my shots were landing and any corrections I might have to make. This was all new to Rhys but he picked it up really quickly.”

Rhys, from Sheffield, added: “I soon realised that it was more than just archery practice to John but also a nice social meeting too. 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.”

My Guide is a mobility befriending service that helps people with sight loss to get out of their homes, reducing the isolation many people with a visual impairment experience and giving them greater choice and access to the community.

The My Guide service in Rotherham and Sheffield is in need of volunteers to help people like John. Full training is given and the scheme matches volunteers with someone who is blind or partially sighted.

Volunteers will spend a few hours a week, guiding their partner out to activities that the pair will agree at the start of their time together, like going to the shops, sporting events or joining a local coffee group.

David Clough, from Guide Dogs, said: “This has great benefits to the volunteer as well as the beneficiary. It’s a wonderful and flexible opportunity for volunteers to make new friends, learn really useful skills, whilst making a real difference to someone in their community.”

John added: “My Guide really improves a person’s quality of life. Having someone help you get out and about is invaluable. If you’re able to volunteer please do as you can change someone’s life.”

If you would like to find out how you can become a volunteer or how to apply for the service please contact Guide Dogs on volunteer@guidedogs.org.uk. Alternatively for more details on the My Guide service please visit www.guidedogs.org.uk/myguide.




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