In the run up to International Volunteer Managers Day 2017, we meet Victoria Leedham – Volunteering Manager at Hearing Dogs for Deaf People – who tells us more about her role and why Hearing Dogs could not exist without its volunteer network…
“Volunteers enrich our community, and the London Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012 demonstrated on the most high-profile stage the positive impact volunteering can have if properly resourced, supported and managed.
My role, as Volunteering Manager, is to ensure that Hearing Dogs has enough volunteers to achieve its aims and that those volunteers feel as good, as valued, and as supported as those – now legendary – Games Makers.
It’s a fallacy that volunteering comes for free and it’s wrong to think volunteers are simply there to cut wage costs. Volunteers add value to organisations and complement what is offered by paid employees. All volunteers require support and it’s for that reason Hearing Dogs is committed to a dedicated, central volunteering team who uphold best practice, encourage volunteer recognition and ensure volunteering efforts are in line with our peers. With fifteen times more volunteers than staff, it is important work that affects a very significant number of people.
My background is in marketing and communications and I hope to have used those skills to promote volunteering and raise the profile of volunteers since joining Hearing Dogs five and a half years ago.
The term ‘volunteer family’ is something I introduced and a concept that caught on quickly because of the obvious parallels; on a weekly basis I witness joy and sorrow, synergy and occasional squabbles, standard days and truly exceptional ones. I meet volunteers for whom volunteering is their everything, and others who are more transient. Whatever the commitment, there is no pecking order of volunteer. To my mind, everyone in the family gives what they can, with the time they have available, to the best of their ability.
I’m proud to say there is now a well-established culture of volunteering at Hearing Dogs. It’s taken as read that volunteers are integral to delivering and supporting the Charity’s mission to offer greater independence, confidence and companionship to deaf people through the gift of a hearing dog.
My personal pledge on International Volunteer Managers Day is to now think in terms of a ‘one team’ integration of the wider community: volunteers, staff, beneficiaries, supporters, plus – importantly – our new friends from Hearing Link, the leading hearing loss charity we proudly merged with earlier this year.
The doors to Hearing Dogs’ brand new Welcome Centre, situated between High Wycombe and Princes Risborough in Buckinghamshire, will open early in 2018 and there could be no better metaphor. Do stop by for a coffee and, who knows, you may just be inspired to join our family.”
About Hearing Dogs for Deaf People
Hearing Dogs for Deaf People is a registered charity that trains dogs to alert deaf people to important sounds and danger signals such as the doorbell, telephone and smoke alarm – providing life-changing independence and confidence. Hearing Dogs provides a national service and no charge is made to recipients.
Hearing Dogs Welcome Centre opening date to be announced soon.