Meet student volunteer, Lauren

Lauren Deane was studying at St. Mary’s University in Belfast when Guide Dogs first appeared on her radar!

It has given me a sense of pride and spring in my step as through giving up a small portion of my day and merely having a simple conversation can mean the world to someone else.

Lauren's story

"Two members of the charity visited to speak about their work and the opportunities for volunteering it offered. My university actively encouraged volunteering which showed you were helping within your community and it’s something I have always been keen on.

That night I researched Guide Dogs and, on their website, I signed up and registered to volunteer for the My Sighted Guide program. It particularly caught my eye as I would be personally assisting and guiding a blind or partially sighted person through weekly activities to whatever suited their needs and desires. I then started visiting Margaret each week, I was able to build a bond with her and gradually get to know her.”

Unfortunately due to COVID Lauren and Margaret are unable to meet face to face. However, they still talk every Thursday, usually for more than an hour!

“Because I was volunteering with My Sighted Guide I was able to do a 6 week placement with Guide Dogs, doing some admin and promotion. This was great as through this I knew I was actively encouraging others to volunteer with Guide Dogs as I had done. 

It has given me a sense of pride and spring in my step as through giving up a small portion of my day and merely having a simple conversation can mean the world to someone else.

Each day that I talk to Margaret I am also able to build self-confidence as well as getting the chance to meet new people!

Overall, in my week I am only volunteering at most for 2 hours so it does not disturb my studies or interfere with any other aspect of my life. I have been volunteering for over 18 months now and I have enjoyed every moment of it!”

In 2020 at the Guide Dogs Volunteer Awards for Scotland and Northern Ireland Lauren was nominated for the Special Young Persons NI Award

I was absolutely shocked when my name was called as the winner during the virtual ceremony. It completely took me by surprise as it was the very last award of the day but it meant so much to me to be recognised. It has even helped me when applying for my PGCE. During my interview one of the questions was ‘Tell us about a time you have show consistency’ and I was able to speak about being in partnership with Margaret and my award. I could tell the panel were really receptive to this and I got lots of positive feedback. I am delighted to say I got the offer for Liverpool and will be going there next year. I strongly suspect that my experience with Guide Dogs pipped me over the edge.

Take a look at volunteering opportunities near you