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15 December, 2015

Sister Helen's Christmas wish

Sister Helen pictured inside a classroom with her Guide Dog, Miriam

If Dominican Nun and teacher, Sister Helen Merrin, was able to have one wish granted this Christmas, it would be for more people who are blind or vision impaired to experience the mobility, independence and dedication of a Guide Dog.

With Guide Dogs NSW/ACT launching its annual Christmas appeal, Sister Helen, who is blind, said helping to fund more Guide Dogs was a wonderful way for the community to share the festive spirit.

"It will mean that people who are blind or vision impaired will be able to become more independent and allow them to live the life they desire," she said. "It can only have positive outcomes for the recipients and for their families."

Sister Helen has dedicated her life to teaching children and travels with her Guide Dog, Miriam to and from St Lucy's School for children with disabilities.

"I have been a music teacher and a primary school teacher. I taught violin until an illness meant I could no longer hold my arm up for the violin, so I took up cello," she said. "I taught in Brisbane and in Sydney then came to a special school to teach children who are blind. This is my 45th year of teaching."

Since beginning to lose her sight in 1994, Sister Helen has had three Guide Dogs which have helped her move safely through different environments.

"If I didn't have a dog, I probably wouldn't be able to go out," she said. "It would just be too traumatic. I know if I didn't have a dog over the past 18 years, I might be a very sad, depressed, non-karate-doing person, who up until the last six months has walked many routes."

Despite further limitations on mobility due to hearing loss, Sister Helen is determined to be back on trains and in the city with the help of Miriam.

"Miriam is taking on the extra responsibilities with courage and initiative," she said. "She is wonderful."

By making a donation to Guide Dogs NSW/ACT this Christmas, you will help people like Sister Helen to pursue their goals and dreams.

Every day 28 Australians are diagnosed with uncorrectable vision loss, including nine who become blind.

"Breeding and training each Guide Dog requires an investment of more than $35,000 and as we receive less than 2 per cent of our funding needs from the government we rely on the public's generosity," Guide Dogs NSW/ACT's General Manager Fundraising, Leila Davis said.

"This community support enables us to provide all our services, including our Guide Dogs, free of charge to people who need them."

From a gold coin placed into an iconic collection model Guide Dog at your local supermarket to an online donation to help Guide Dogs NSW/ACT purchase one of the following items for its puppies, every cent counts:

  • $7 buys a name tag for a puppy
  • $9 towards a puppy blanket
  • $11 can buy a collar for a puppy
  • $15 can buy a water bowl for a puppy
  • $20 towards a puppy leash
  • $250 covers vaccinations to keep puppies healthy or provides one harness for a Guide Dog

Donate now