PAWS volunteer: Helping to care for cats and dogs at Pennine Animal Welfare Society has helped me to battle depression
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Several volunteers at Pennine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) near Todmorden say people struggling with their mental health can benefit emotionally from helping to care for critters in need.
One of them is Erin Mcilhatton, who began volunteering at the sanctuary around a year ago as a way to meet people after moving to a new town just before lockdown.
Erin, who handles the charity’s social media pages, said: “I’d always prided myself on being a positive person but I had a lot of changes in my life. I was living with my boyfriend’s family and then all of a sudden everything shut down. My boyfriend and I were sharing his attic bedroom and he’d just quit his job not long before lockdown so he couldn’t find a new one because everything was closed.
"[In the past], I’d always tried to keep myself busy. It was a way of distracting myself from everything I hadn’t dealt with."
But during the pandemic, the 28-year-old added: “I was crying all the time. After lockdown, I went to therapy for a year and was diagnosed with depression.”
Not long after she started at PAWS, the charity was handed an eviction notice and Erin was determined to help fight for its future.
"I have always been a big animal person and PAWS gave me a sense of purpose. I was feeling stuck in a rut and couldn’t move forward. But now it’s nice to have a creative outlet, work with animals and go out and meet people. My mental health is now 100 times better. I’m slowly getting back to the person I was.
"One of my biggest moments when I started out caring for the animals was when [fellow volunteer] Callum and I took some dogs out to a field and it was just quiet. We couldn’t hear anything. Playing with the dogs, not having my phone, and just listening to nothing was so peaceful.”
The volunteer is revealing her story as part of a heartfelt plea for people to support the charity as it fundraises £150,000 for a new home.
PAWS is looking to buy three to five acres of land within 15 miles of Todmorden. Despite finding several different patches of suitable land, the charity is struggling to come up with a deposit to put down on one.
A second volunteer explaining how the rescue can help people is student Callum Ingham, who aspires to work with animals professionally.
Callum said: "PAWS means a lot to me because I have learnt so much about the course I am studying at college and they have given me the opportunity to complete my work experience here, which I enjoyed so much that I’m still here volunteering over a year later.
"They have given me so much experience, from going to vet appointments to hydrotherapy with the dogs. I enjoy seeing the dedication they have to rescuing and rehoming so many animals that need help and I hope I can continue volunteering here for many years.
"Please help save PAWS.”
To donate, visit https://gofund.me/c26381d7