Faye Winter says becoming a Guide Dogs volunteer cured her loneliness - and has urged others to volunteer to help with the training and development of the life-changing pooches.
The 27-year-old found fame on the 2021 series of Love Island, leaving the villa still coupled up with Teddy Soames. But since 2017 she has been a regular volunteer for Guide Dogs, helping train six dogs who have gone on to help people with visual impairment and blindness - but not before they’ve worked some of their magic on her.
Faye told Women’s Health: ‘Even through my darkest days, caring for a Guide Dog meant that I had someone. I never ever felt alone.’
Before she embarked on reality TV fame, Faye told WH that her mental health was in a fragile state after she moved out of her parents’ home aged 18, leaving the family’s pet dogs behind.
She said: ‘For the first couple of years, I really, really struggled with going home and feeling that aloneness. I was living with somebody at the time, but I still felt so alone. I was brought up around dogs and animals my whole life, and I was so used to being on the sofa with them, or taking them for a walk. I missed it so much that at weekends I would drive an hour round-trip just to go on a dog walk.’
Faye realised that the missing piece of her life was a four-legged friend of her own, but working full-time as an estate agent in Exeter meant that she couldn’t commit to giving a pet the time and attention that they would need to live their best life. She also couldn’t afford the food, vet bills and doggy day care fees, so it looked like for the time being, her dreams of being a pet owner would have to go on ice.
But when she saw a billboard announcing the local branch of Guide Dogs were looking for volunteers her life took an upwards turn.
She said: ‘I'd seen the Guide Dogs doing quite a lot of training in and around Exeter as I was going to and from properties for work. And then I saw that volunteers were needed for evening and weekend care of the dogs. And I thought, what an amazing concept.’
Faye enquired and found that the charity needed to find responsible, caring people who could offer stable, loving, temporary homes for the dogs when they weren’t in training.
She said: 'There was no cost to me. Their food, their veterinary bills, everything was covered by the Guide Dogs. All I had to do was look after a dog and do light training - making them sit at a curb, or making them wait for their food or making them go toilet on demand, that kind of thing.
'I would drop them in to the training centre before I went to work and I would pick them up on the way home. I'd have them all weekend, and that time was really precious because I could go and do what I was so used to doing - going on walks and feeling confident and comfortable.
‘Volunteering for Guide Dogs has never taken anything from me, it's always just given me so much.’
Faye uses her social media platform to encourage her fans to donate their time and energy to good causes, and it’s clear from speaking to her that she is passionate about how volunteering can change multiple lives.
She said: 'Imagine feeling lonely, but also feeling isolated. The Guide Dogs have given so many people all over the UK the reason why they can go out every day, why they can get around confidently and go to work and go to the shops. Being involved in that, for me, that is my biggest achievement.
‘There's no bigger reward than seeing you change someone's life, if that be a smile in the street, and you just know that you've changed someone's day or you see somebody upset or you hold the door open for an elderly person, knowing that you've made a difference.’
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