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How you can volunteer to help visually impaired people in Sefton during Year of Friendship

For Formby resident Derek Thomas, being visually impaired is no barrier to living a full life thanks to the help of his guide dog and great friend Sooty.

Not only does Sooty, who was paired with Derek by Guide Dogs Liverpool in November 2018, help him navigate but he has also helped Derek make new friends and connections across Sefton.

This July, Sefton Council’s Year Of Friendship campaign is celebrating diversity across our borough and shining a light on the many groups, teams, individuals and organisations who promote diversity and foster friendship.

Derek said: “Sooty is my first ever guide dog. We try to get out every day, if only to go to the library or gym. These are things I used to do with a long white cane but it’s nice to be able to go out with Sooty and have somebody to talk to. Of course I don’t expect him to answer me, it’s just nice to have someone there.

“I’m safe with Sooty, and I find that because I’m with him people tend to see you a lot more and react better. Our relationship is brilliant, it’s different to having any other pet. He’s a one-man dog and we have bonded very well together. He’s a lovely dog and he’s great with me.”

Guide Dogs Liverpool is currently appealing for volunteers in Sefton to take part in its fantastic ‘My Guide’ scheme to help visually impaired people get out and about and meet new people. The scheme involves training sighted people to assist visually impaired people within their own communities.

Volunteers undergo specialist training and learn to safely guide someone with sight loss, helping them navigating environments, build self-confidence and increase social interaction.

Penny Anderson, Engagement Officer at Guide Dogs, said: “My Guide is a really exciting initiative that involves training sighted people to support visually impaired people within their community. We’re looking for sighted volunteers within the Sefton area to support people that have been waiting to have a My Guide volunteer. If you can spare a few hours a week, and would like to train and support someone visually impaired in Sefton, we’d love to hear from you.”

If you would like to find out more about the My Guide scheme call 0118 98 38 749 or visit

Watch a video of Derek and Sooty, and Penny explaining more about the My Guide scheme, below.