Nicole Donnachie reached St Columba’s RC High School YPI final in 2018/19. Although her team didn’t secure the grant for Guide Dogs for the Blind, the experience has propelled her commitment to the charity and other social causes. Nicole, of Cowdeneath, secured an award in a national Guide Dogs for the Blind ceremony in the ‘Engage’ category for her fundraising and engagement efforts.
“When we started YPI, we weren’t sure what to represent. All my teammates are passionate about animals, being pet owners themselves, but I have a fear of dogs. One of my teammates had a family connection to guide dogs so, after careful consideration, I decided that I should go out my comfort zone by doing something new on behalf of YPI.
“From the word go, I was off researching the charity. It begun with some surfing of the Guide Dogs website, where some basic information was found. I decided that I should contact the Edinburgh Mobility team for some more information. We were contacted by a lovely lady called Anne, who told us some amazing facts and figures about the charity. In particular, I was interested in the fact that Guide Dogs are a free service for those who are visually impaired. I had done some research on health inequalities in modern studies, in which I learnt that there is a large gap in the equality of people with disabilities and health conditions. It made me proud that I was representing a charity whose aim is to improve the quality of individuals lives but at the same time, improve heath inequalities.
“When we found out that we had come second at the YPI final, we were devastated. I was particularly disappointed as I had invested the majority of my free time into this project, working all night for months on the presentation and contacting celebrities and Guide Dog ambassadors.
“I am a very determined and strong-minded person. Winning is not what matters but, in my own mind, I had not satisfied myself enough. I knew that I should take it on my own shoulders to prove that sometimes losing pushes you further and further towards your destination. A destination for me would be to raise £3000, equivalent to the YPI grant, in order to name and sponsor a guide dog after our school.
“I saw there was a fun run taking place in Glasgow. I knew that this would be an amazing fundraising opportunity which would be useful for my personal YPI legacy project. With help from my amazing parents, a total of £1320 was raised in two weeks. While at the run I met with some inspirational Guide Doge users and volunteers, who were keen to know all about YPI. I realised at that point I was really making a difference to the charity. I came home feeling proud, which gave me the incentive to look for volunteering opportunities within the charity.
“I had been speaking to the ladies from the West Fife Guide Dogs group about the possibility of coming along and helping at a volunteering event. After a few sessions of being guest volunteers, my parents were signed up as official volunteers for Guide Dogs as they enjoyed coming along to support me. This meant I could come along to any events that they volunteered at to help. We found some close contacts within the charity and even got an exclusive tour of the Guide Dogs breeding centre.
“I organised a raffle and a few sponsored events. Unfortunately, due to the restrictions on gatherings we have had to postpone the events. We did manage to hold the raffle virtually, where almost £700 was raised. We were kindly donated all of the prizes by some local businesses. We then began to look for other methods of raising money.
“I contacted some businesses to asking for a small donation to the charity. Within a few weeks we had donations coming in from around six or seven different businesses, offering a donation to our charity. After putting together both the money raised by the raffle and the donations, we found out we had raised £2500- enough to sponsor the Guide Dog! In eight months we had managed to raise a final total of £3820!
“I have always been passionate about helping charities and organisations. As I am only 14, signing up as an official volunteer for a charity is not possible until I turn 18. Until then I will continue to help out at any Guide Dogs events and collections, helping with the charity in as many ways possible. I will also continue to help out other charities by donating food to numerous food banks, along with toys and games for children in need over the Christmas period.
“As I get more experience with volunteering and charitable work, I would like to see myself eventually volunteering for a mental health charity. I have always been enthusiastic about providing support for those suffering from mental illness, and as I become more mature I would like to get involved with these type of charities. I look forward to seeing what the future brings for my career ahead!
“My greatest advice for those beginning YPI is to get involved! Many will see the YPI project as a time to sit back and let others do the work. When I took part in the initiative, I saw many of my classmates use YPI as an excuse to have a giggle in class. When it came to the presentations these people fell behind.
“With the YPI project you have an opportunity to show everyone what you are made of. The only way to do this is to get involved! Become an active team player, go out of your way to help, spend time working with others! The more you are involved, the more you will achieve. When I began YPI, I assumed it would be a typical class project that would take up a few months of my life. Little did I know that YPI would open a door to something that would change me as a person. Charity has become a big part of my life. In just under a year, I went from a complete novice to winning the Guide Dogs Engage Volunteer award (for Scotland). If I can do it, anyone can. Get involved!”