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Student vet gives back by volunteering to share animal welfare message

Joanna running London Marathon for Blue Cross pet charity

Animals played such a huge role in Joanna Gillingham’s childhood that she’s now giving back by speaking to other young people about what it means to be a true pet lover…

Joanna jumped at the chance. Despite only being in her teens and with the pressures of passing important exams pushing down on her, the then-sixth form student couldn’t pass on an opportunity to share her pet subject – pets – with others.

“I have always been an animal lover, having grown up with dogs and ponies, and when I heard about the opportunity to volunteer for Blue Cross I was so excited,” Joanna enthuses. “I think it is so important for young children to know how to be safe around pets and educate them on how to choose the right pet to ensure all animals can live in the highest welfare possible.”

Four years later, Joanna is still passing on her passion for four-legged friends to children and young people in her community, all while training to become a veterinary surgeon. As a Blue Cross Education Volunteer, she visits youth groups and clubs in her local area, encouraging conversation and sparking debate about key welfare issues facing animals today.


Passing on a passion for pets

Joanna finds volunteering a hugely rewarding experience and was recently touched to learn that she was inspiring pet owners of the future.

She explains: “So many lovely things happen at every talk I go to. I usually get chocolates, cards, and bags of goodies for the pets at our rehoming centres. One of my favourite comments from a recent talk was where one girl came up to me at the end and said, ‘Jo, we have the same shoes on. Does that mean I can be like you one day?’

“I was so pleased that I had inspired her and hopefully she will remember the messages from my talk too.”

Of course, we know Joanna gives so much and we’re hugely grateful, but she feels she gets something back too as the role has helped her gain key skills that she may not have gathered without volunteering.

Joanna says: “I have continually developed my public speaking skills, and technique on how to make a group of excited Brownies keep quiet (just about!).  

“I also get the opportunity to share my love and passion for animal health and welfare with the wider community, and provide an engaging talk to help educate the younger generation on a variety of requested topics. The network within Blue Cross is also fantastic; the help, support and training you receive as an educational speaker is brilliant. I am always learning something new.”


Top team

At Blue Cross we really appreciate our volunteers and try to help to provide positive experiences of other parts of our charity too. For Joanna, who is a vet student, this meant she was able to spend two weeks at one of our rehoming centres in Burford, Oxfordshire, where she got the chance to get lots of hands-on experience with animals and develop a working knowledge of pet health, behaviour and welfare.

Not content with devoting many, many hours of her free time to help, Joanna also took on the challenge of running the London marathon earlier this year to raise money for the sick, injured and homeless pets in our care, raising a whopping £1,800. All this effort is more than worth it, she says.

“I completed the 2017 London Marathon and am over the moon to support the charity's work and knowing first hand that the money is going to such an amazing cause. When I received my fundraising pack with leaflets, badges etc to hand out, and on the back of one of the leaflets was Blossom; a dog I had been working with at Burford on my two-week placement the previous summer. I am so pleased to be helping animals like Blossom have a brighter future.”

Without people like Joanna, we simply couldn’t carry out the vital work we do for animal welfare. To Joanna, and all our wonderful volunteers; thank you. You make the difference.

If you could give something back to pets by volunteering with Blue Cross, get in touch with our Education Team today

— Page last updated 9/06/2017