Blog: Volunteers Week – What volunteering means to me

I was a small part of Hearing Link when it was an independent charity in Eastbourne. Since it became a part of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, and Hearing Link Services, more and very different opportunities have developed.  

I have always talked about issues relating to hearing loss whilst talking about Hearing Dogs because I am passionate about the challenges faced by hearing-impaired people.  

I have worked with major banks, as well as many other medical settings and major tourist attractions to provide advice, training and awareness raising to staff at all levels. 

None of this would have been possible without the transformation my first hearing dog, Grace brought to my life. She did all the hard work, Zyla (my second hearing dog) just needs to continue it! It gave me back the professional skills I had developed in my working life, in personnel and education, despite the deterioration of my hearing in my early 30s. 

Hearing dogs Grace (left) and Zyla (right)

While I have always enjoyed the Hearing Dogs talks (465 since 2011 and counting!), the work I am currently involved with are LinkUps and Helpful Hours – which I am relishing. I now meet and work with a different team of volunteers and staff. It is an entirely new focus for me, and how I wish I had had their resources when I was working with the other organisations.  

Hearing Link Services is invaluable in my work with Worcester Acute Hospitals Trust and Gloucester Hospitals Foundation Trust. The aim in both cases (similar to my work with the Royal Orthopaedic) is to raise the understanding and support of hearing-impaired patients, staff and volunteers, including the duty of care for their employees.  

We have established a monthly drop-in session in the main Atrium in Worcestershire Royal Hospital. So far, we have attracted and had in-depth conversations with over 200 staff and the diverse range of people coming through the area. 

How volunteering has impacted my life

Volunteering has given me back my enjoyment and focus in life. I have met many amazing volunteers, staff and, most importantly, hearing impaired people. All of whom are inspirational in their own way.  

Merleen & Zyla being presented with the “Community Spirit” award.

I hope that over the years I have been able to introduce hearing loss to the hearing world and fostered a better understanding across the 12,300 folk I have met through my talks, and by raising greater awareness of the organisations I have worked with. My husband Paul and I have lost count of all the ‘casual’ conversations we have had whilst out and about. 

Volunteering is in my soul – which was effectively buried until Grace was partnered with me in 2013. By example, she persuaded folk to sponsor 103 puppies during her lifetime as well as taking me back to being me! 

I owe a huge debt to both Hearing Link Services and Hearing Dogs. They’ve given me the opportunities and confidence to support, promote, inform and guide others living with hearing loss, giving them a few tools to enable them to nurture themselves to be the very best they can be. 

THAT is a real privilege. 

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