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Volunteering at Harrow cat centre is a lifeline for Laura during pandemic

A volunteer at Cats Protection’s Harrow Homing Centre says that her role has been paramount to her wellbeing this year.

Laura Duggan lives in Harrow with her husband, two adult children and two black and white cats called Millie and Mollie. She was away in Agadir, Morocco, in January 2020 when the Cat Care Volunteer role was advertised and applied straight away – on her 50th birthday!

Following a fall twelve years ago, which severely damaged the muscles all along her side, Laura has suffered with a number of health conditions including fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis and an auto immune condition called Sjogrens Syndrome. She had to leave her job as a call handler in London and is no longer able to work as her mobility is often quite limited. She says that volunteering has been a real lifeline to her during the pandemic.

Laura said: “Having a routine and knowing I’m directly helping the staff to care for the cats has helped me regain a sense of purpose and made all the difference to my wellbeing this year.”

Caroline Shilton, whose role as Volunteer Team Leader at the centre is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, said: “Laura joined us as a Cat Care Volunteer shortly after we opened in Harrow in early March and was always present for her shift. Then lockdown hit and we were unable to have volunteers on site.

“However, in August we were able to welcome very limited numbers of volunteers back to the centre in the more restricted role of Cat Care Support Volunteer (CCSV) to ensure social distancing is preserved. It is very much a support role to staff, with little or no cat contact and lots of cleaning and laundry. But this hasn’t stopped Laura! She applied as soon as the role was advertised and has been volunteering for us twice weekly ever since, and always with a smile.

“Laura’s presence brightens the day for the staff as she is always so enthusiastic and proactively looks for new ways she can help. She is even taking home damaged cat beds and things to repair them in her own time. She’s currently working on fundraising ideas too!”

Laura says that although there is less contact with the cats at the moment, she feels privileged to be able to help in any way she can.

“If I can take some of the strain off the team’s shoulders by doing things like cleaning, it gives them more time to concentrate on the more skilled tasks that they are trained to do, such as giving medication and checking on the cats. It’s still all part of the homing process and I know that in my own way I’m helping cats find their forever homes.

“Caroline is so wonderful and supportive and the whole team is very understanding of my health conditions, which is fantastic as I never know how much my body will be able to move from day to day. It’s such a relief not to have any stress about this, as worrying would inevitably exacerbate my physical symptoms.

“Having been bed-bound for some time after my accident I’m just so grateful that I can have some semblance of a normal life. It was such a dramatic change going from being an active working mum to being stuck at home for so long, so it’s wonderful to feel useful again!”

For information about volunteering at your local branch or centre visit www.cats.org.uk/volunteering