Laurence is a keen walker, as is Phyl.
They explore the County Down countryside together every week, enjoying the beautiful surroundings, chatting to the locals and exploring new routes.
Just the same as any other walkers would do, you might say.
And you’re right, they are just the same as any other walkers…with a slight twist.
We were keen to find out more, so…
WE JOINED THEM ON A WALK…
Laurence started losing his sight gradually and has now been registered blind for 22 years.
As an avid explorer of the local mountains and not one to say no to an adventure, Laurence got involved in a service provided by Guide Dogs NI called My Guide.
This offers Laurence the freedom to keep doing the things he loves, with people he connects with.
“I’ve been having a My Guide for nearly ten years now and it’s really tremendous for me to get among the outdoors, especially along with Phyl.”
In 2015, Phyl had received an email from her local walking group, asking if anyone in the area could take a local man with a vision impairment walking in the mountains once a week.
“As I had just retired and was looking to do some voluntary work, I thought this was ideal. After attending the sighted guide training course in Belfast and Newry, Laurence and I started our little adventure!”
Phyl was matched with Laurence 3 years ago, with their love of exploring the mountains, hills and country paths bringing them together. They now roam to their heart’s content, building a strong bond along the way.
My Guide helps people to build self-confidence, increase social interaction and be part of the community.
Currently there are around 60 My Guide partnerships in Northern Ireland, with over 20 people waiting for a volunteer. Partnerships do everything, ranging from hiking in Rostrevor to going for a cup of coffee and a walk in Belfast.
“The joy that it gives to Lawrence, that’s what it’s all about. He probably knows the mountains more than I do…
“My days out with Laurence are always a pleasure - I consider him and his wife Angela as friends. As Angela is deaf, I am also learning sign language…very slowly! So I am learning from them - we give and we receive.”
HOW AMAZING IS THAT?
We obviously knew a little about their background before meeting, but spending the morning with them on their walk, finding out a bit more and seeing their enthusiasm and positivity in person, really did hit home.
Please do share their story and give both them and Guide Dogs Northern Ireland the credit they deserve.
[Also, a big thank you from us to Guide Dogs NI for sorting our walk with Laurence and Phyl.]
WANT TO GIVE SOMETHING BACK?
To find out more about being a My Guide volunteer, or to apply, click on the logos below.
You must be over 18 and available 2-3 hours per week. Guide Dogs provide all training necessary, subject to Access NI and reference checks.
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