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Charities covid-19

Approaching the Stage 4 lockdowns in Victoria

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Karen Hayes with dog

This second lockdown has been harder than the first, but there is a bright side in that it has forced us all to slow down and focus on what is truly important. Now that I’m not commuting, I spend as much time as possible outdoors near my home on the Peninsula, walking with my Guide Dogs Ambassador dog, Willow.

It’s been so good to see people starting to think differently, and I truly hope that as we come out the other side of this pandemic, we don’t lose the positive learnings from this experience that, hopefully, will reset the paradigm for us all.

This current situation is challenging, but for many of our Clients, Victorians with low vision or blindness, this sense of disconnect and isolation is their reality, regardless of the circumstances.

That’s why it was vital for Guide Dogs Victoria to mobilise quickly as the COVID-19 situation escalated to find new ways to connect with Clients, and to retain the trust and community spirit we have worked hard to build for over 60 years.

Those in the not-for-profit sector are natural problem solvers, and that’s never been more valuable. It has been with immense pride that I have witnessed our staff find innovative ways to keep Clients supported through these challenging times.

One achievement has been launching a national online interactive hub in collaboration with our sister organisations in other states. Before the pandemic, I could not have imagined conceptualising and delivering a project of this scale with Guide Dogs organisations nationally in such a short space of time.

This agility and ingenuity have been so successful that once we return to “normal”, we will continue a hybrid model of face-to-face and telepractice, to service more Clients and extend our support into more remote areas.

We’ve also adjusted design elements at our new campus which is currently under construction to reflect these new ways of working.

It’s during challenging times like these that I am reminded of what my mother always taught me; that anything is possible and to stay true to my values. She also taught me that if I wasn’t sure whether I should do something to consider how my grandmother would feel if it appeared on the front page of the newspaper the next morning. Invaluable advice given I’ve been in front of a camera more than ever this year.

With that said, there is such a thing as too much digital facetime, and we have introduced a GDV CARE Plan for our staff, a structure I now follow myself. It provides structure and positive discipline to our work practices, including video-free Fridays, and blocking out lunch hours away from your desk.

Finally, the one thing everyone asks me is how are the puppies, and for them, it is pretty much business as usual. The pups are none-the-wiser about the chaos in the world, and we’ve transitioned them to a socially-distanced program for training. I think dogs everywhere are having the best lockdown experience out of anyone!

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