Students paws for thought | Guide Dogs NSW/ACT

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30 May, 2016

Students paws for thought

Barbara leaning over to pat her Guide Dog Samara

Golden Guide Dog visits Bankstown Public School

Young students at Bankstown Public School had the opportunity to meet a very special four-legged friend named Samara. The beautiful golden Lab is the fourth Guide Dog of Barbara Bonfield, a Guide Dogs NSW/ACT Public Relations Speaker who visited the school to talk about her experience with vision impairment and how having a Guide Dog changed her life.

Born with a retinal eye condition, Barbara has been legally blind since she was 12 years old. However, growing up there was no professional assistance available to manage her vision loss, and it was only later on in life that she started receiving support from Guide Dogs NSW/ACT. While trained to use various tools and mobility devices including the long cane, Barbara's life changed dramatically when she received her first Guide Dog in 1993.

With a Guide Dog by her side, Barbara's mobility and confidence grew and she began to expand her life experiences. She became involved in various activities and community organisations and now enjoys an active and independent life as a dedicated advocate for people who are blind or vision impaired. Barbara's current Guide Dog, Samara, is a perfect match for her busy lifestyle and has been her eyes and constant companion for the past three and a half years.

"Having a Guide Dog improved not only my mobility but also the quality of my life," Barbara said.

As a Public Relations Speaker for Guide Dogs, Barbara and Samara frequently visit schools like Bankstown Public, as well as various clubs, seniors and other community groups.

"Being a speaker is a way for me to give back to the organisation that made my new life possible," she said.

Recently, Barbara had the opportunity to speak to 140 year one students at Bankstown Public School.

"The kids were really amazing. They were very engaged and they asked me a variety of questions. One little girl asked how much Sam cost, and I explained that each Guide Dog costs more than $35,000 to breed, raise and train," Barbara said.

"Since they were learning about the five senses, I also explained to them how I use my four senses really well to make up for what I can't see. They were very good listeners."

There are an estimated 300,000 Australians with uncorrectable vision loss, 100,000 of whom live in NSW and the ACT. These figures are predicted to increase by more than 50% by 2030.

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is the leading provider of Guide Dogs and other services that enable people with impaired vision to get around their communities safely and independently. With vision loss on the rise, the organisation is working hard to train more Guide Dogs to meet the growing demand.

Are you looking for a free Speaker to entertain and inspire your class, school, business or community group? Guide Dogs Public Relations Speakers can give you a true-life account of what it is like to have vision loss but still live an amazing and inspiring, independent life.

To find out more or to book a Speaker, please contact Guide Dogs Speaker Co-ordinator on (02) 9412 9307 or email speakers [at] guidedogs.com.au