If you are a Herefordshire resident, you may not be surprised to learn that this beautiful rural county homes the highest percentile of people living with sight loss, around 3.9%, in comparison to the rest of the UK, which currently stands at an estimated 2.95%.
Of these 6,740 people, 830 of them are considered as severely sight impaired, or blind. And I am one of them!
I initially came to Hereford in 2000 to attend the Royal National College for the Blind, and after three years of partying, sprinkled with a couple of A’ Level classes… and topped off with more parties – I fell in love with this sleepy historical city and decided to set up home here with my boyfriend, Liam.
One of the main things that I have always loved about this city is the locals’ acceptance of visually impaired persons, everybody from shop assistants, to taxi drivers, to strangers in the street are always happy to lend a hand to help without judgement. It was this feeling of safety that led me toward the decision to apply for a Guide Dog.
In 2003, I was introduced to my brand new rocket propelled black lab/Golden retriever, Rilla. She was eighteen months old and so full of beans that I virtually had to scrape her off the ceiling every time somebody came round to visit, but the important thing was that she was a cracking Guide Dog!
Collecting in High Town, Hereford
Guide Dogs not only give a person living with sight loss independence, they boost confidence and allow their owner to integrate into society
Suddenly, instead of finding excuses to stay home and avoid the stresses of the outside world, Guide Dog owners find themselves scrambling for excuses to leave the house, and it’s amazing how much of a conversation starter having a beautiful dog by your side can be.
My beloved Rilla
My dog, Rilla retired four years ago, and is more grey than black these days as she is now thirteen
I am currently in the process of applying for a new Guide Dog, and it may astound you to learn that, each Guide Dog, from birth, through his or her extensive training, and right through their entire working life costs the charity around £50,000 per dog.
All food and veterinary costs are fully covered by the Association as they do not want there to be any financial barriers for anybody seeking an independent and fulfilling life. The welfare of the dogs is the Association’s number one priority and no expense is spared when it comes to our waggy friends.
Can you help?
I have been a community fund raiser for the charity for around three years. The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association is 100% funded by charitable donations and receives no government funding. This is why community fund raisers are so important to the lives of Guide Dog owners, twenty-two of which live in the city of Hereford.
Our very small team of Hereford based volunteers are always looking for extra help from anybody who can spare an hour or two on the odd Friday or Saturday to hold a bucket at a collection, usually at a supermarket
These collections are really enjoyable to take part in as you meet some lovely people plus get to spend some time with one of our volunteers’ gorgeous pooches which will strictly be on cuddle duty!
We urgently need your votes!
Our team is one of three charities to be shortlisted as Sainsbury’s local charity of the year for its Hereford store. If we are lucky enough to be nominated for the honour of charity of the year via the customer vote, we will have the privilege to work closely with our local Sainsbury’s for the next twelve months, boosting our branch income by a potential £5000.
Our goal, if successful, is to raise enough funds with the help of Sainsbury’s shoppers, to fund a “Name a Puppy Appeal”, we would then love for customers to choose which name they would like their puppy to be given, plus to eventually bring the puppy in store for cuddles.
Voting closes 28/06/15 so please, please vote for us as we need all the votes that we can get!
If you would like to vote for us, please go to this page where all the details are listed. Many thanks!
Editor: To read more about Rilla, please see Suzanne's two articles.