In 2006 with Sandy, my guide dog, we moved back to London. I needed to find a part-time job. As with Contiki, I had a dream to work for a very specific organization, Guide Dogs UK. I wanted to be part of the place that had changed my life and the lives of so many other blind people. I wanted to be part of their fundraising team and I was sure my passion would be my secret weapon in being successful in such a role.
Even before I departed for London, I started investigating the possibilities of working for Guide Dogs. Unfortunately, there were no vacancies and, for the time being, that dream had to be shelved. I was, however, determined to get a role in the charity sector that complemented the experience I gained in South Africa. I was very meticulous in recording each and every application I made over, what turned out to be a six-month, draining process which broke my confidence every step of the way.
It was a catch twenty-two. If I informed them in advance of my needs as a visually-impaired candidate, I would not get invited for an interview, if I didn’t, I was faced with numerous barriers when taking tests and completing tasks as part of the process.
I recall one application in particular. It was with a national charity for children with multisensory disabilities. I was very excited about this application. I knew the organization and respected them for the work they did. I had also done volunteer work for them in the past so I was no stranger to them. While completing the application, I was not shy about my needs and when the day of the interview arrived, I was excited and confident.
Upon arrival, I was asked to do a written task on a computer as part of the interview. I asked if I was allowed to enlarge the fonts on the screen and if the curtains could be closed to reduce the glare on the screen. My requests were denied. During the oral interview, I communicated my disappointment with the situation. I was told the test did not really matter but I believe the damage was done. Again, I was unsuccessful and again, never told why.
While this process continues, life did not stand still and bills had to be paid. I had no choice but to take any job I could find. It was during this time that London saw the war of the "free paper" begin. One of these was The London Paper. I got a job handing these out to commuters. 3000 within three hours to be exact. Me being me, I did not do anything halfway and made it my mission to do my job well. I was loud, friendly and, standing with my cane in the busy streets of London, became very good at what I did. A Kiwi working for the opposing paper across the street was not happy, as the better I got, the worse he did. When I turned my back, he would throw my trolley over, papers flying everywhere. During this mess, my team leader refused to assist me. She said she was too far away. A whole three blocks away. My next spot worked just as well, but a man selling the Big Issue then harassed me. The London Paper management was never interested in supporting me, so, after three months of giving out thousands of papers of which the ink came off and always left me a mess, I called it a day.
It had been six months since I had arrived in London and I decided to take my dream of working for Guide Dogs off the shelf, dust it off and give it another go. I hoped that if I volunteered for them in my spare time, I would be able to prove myself. I called and was invited to go into their Woodford office for an informal chat to see what volunteering opportunities might be available. I remember feeling ill that day and I almost canceled, but fortunately, decided not to in the end.
Upon arrival, I met with Nick and Devine who worked in the fundraising team. We had a lovely chat over tea and biscuits. I told them about the work I had done in South Africa, in particular, the Jailbreak. When we came to the end of our discussion, Nick asked me to wait in reception while they discussed a few things. When they called me back, Nick offered me a job, not a volunteering role, no, a paid job in the community fundraising team. I remember standing at Woodford station after they dropped me off. I kept my poise until then but then I let go, screaming, singing and dancing until my train arrived! Another dream come true.