Hometown Heroes: Helping others is its own reward for Kate

Hometown Heroes: Helping others is its own reward for Kate

Kate Durrant with the six golden retriever puppies; Nollaig, Nancy, Neil, Neville, Noddy and Niall, she has raised for the past nine weeks. These puppies are the latest litter of assistance dogs of the future for Dogs for the Disabled.

For the past 20 years, Kate Durrant has dedicated her time and talent to helping the most vulnerable in society through a range of charity organisations.

Living in Blarney, the UK native is involved with Saint Vincent De Paul, Pieta House, Dogs for the Disabled, Tidy Towns, Community First Responders, Meals on Wheels and the Cork City Covid-19 Community Response.

The 52-year-old mother of two began volunteering with the Samaritans when her kids were young and was involved with them for 8-9 years.

“I’m still in touch with a number of the volunteers that I worked with in those days, which is nice.” 

Speaking about her passion for giving back, Kate said: “I’m very lucky, I have two children who are alive and well, I have a lot of friends and my fridge is usually full and I have a roof over my head and I suppose with all those blessings comes the responsibility to pay it back and pass on some of the luck that you were given to share with people who weren’t as lucky as I was.

 “It is very easy to be on this side of the equation, it is very easy to pack a hamper, it can be hard to accept it.” 

In recent years, Kate has moved into organisational roles in SVP, Pieta House and just recently helped out with the Dogs of the Disabled breeding programme, looking after a young labrador Jasmine who had six puppies that are destined to be assistant dogs for children who need them.

The puppies, who were born on December 1, will be ten weeks old next week and will be leaving Kate to go live with their foster parents while being trained.

“The puppies will be good assistant dogs, lively, energetic, sociable, loving and clever. All six of them are going to transform somebody’s life,” Kate said.

This is the first time Kate has looked after a breeding dog and her puppies.

“It’s been so much fun. The days have just not been long enough, they start early and end late, but wouldn’t swap it for the world.” Kate has been socialising the pups. “ I take them out two at a time, just to get them used to noise, traffic, people, cars, normal life.” The puppies, Nollaig, Neil, Neville, Noddy, Niall and Nancy, are also toilet-trained.

While this is Kate’s first time taking in a breeding dog for the charity, she has fostered an assistant dog previously and she has a therapy dog Hugo, who used to visit hospitals in pre-covid times.

“I’m just someone who can’t say no, we met someone one day and our dog had died, we had had him for 14 years, and we were going to go to the rescue to get another and someone said ‘would you foster dogs?’ and I just said yes.

“We hadn’t a clue what we were getting into but the joy we have had and the people we have met that we would never have met without it, it has just been one of the best things I have ever done in my whole life.” 

Pieta House is another charity Kate is very passionate about and she helps to organise the Darkness into Light fundraiser every year.

“We are all seeing the upsurge in mental health issues, at the moment. Life is hard and if we don’t have anywhere to reach out to then there is nothing there - if there is hope, there has got to be hope there for people and Pieta House gives people hope and space and tools to help themselves with their qualified counsellors.

“It is very important that those of us that don’t need Pieta house, keep the doors open for those that do because someday it could be any of us.” 

With Saint Vincent De Paul, Kate coordinates 200 food hampers to give to people in need on a weekly basis as well as being a big part of the local Tidy Towns group.

“I like litter picking, it is very therapeutic.” 

Kate also works full time but said her work is flexible, allowing her to pop in and out whenever she needs to.

The volunteer said in pre-covid times there were moments where it all got a bit overwhelming, but since the pandemic, she has gained time and space with fewer meetings and no physical meetings.

Describing her dedication to charity work and volunteering, Kate said it is her social life and something she gets great pleasure out of.

“There is so much happening in the world at the moment, there is so much going on that I think the reason people get involved in community stuff, is because it is really easy to despair. You look at the news every night and you despair, you look at the bigger picture, but if you can make a difference in your own little corner, it gives you hope.

“None of us can change the world, but you can help your neighbour and that makes you feel better too.”

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