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OIC staff going the extra mile through volunteering and charitable work – Rachel Thomson

OIC staff going the extra mile through volunteering and charitable work – Rachel Thomson
18 June 2021

Rachel - with canvasOrkney Islands Council is proud of its workforce – many of whom will be your friends, neighbours or relatives - with over a quarter of Orkney’s working population employed with the local authority.

A closer look at some of our 2,700 staff has revealed a treasure trove of community-spirited and selfless individuals.

Despite only scratching the surface, we have already found many Council staff who are giving their time freely and willingly to benefit others. Those who are – outwith their local authority jobs – helping others to lead better and safer lives, improving the communities we all live in.

They don’t just ensure that vital services continue to operate at all times – they also go the extra mile through volunteering or charitable work at home and away.

We want to share some of their stories with you.

Social care worker Rachel Thomson not only changes some of Orkney’s most vulnerable people’s lives for the better, but she is also using her talent for painting to raise thousands of pounds to help dogs in desperate need.

Rachel has worked at St Rognvald House in Kirkwall for the past 13 years – a job she “absolutely loves”, supporting residents in a care home setting.

Rachel oozes compassion from every pore for two and four-legged companions!

She said: “I absolutely love my job and I feel lucky to have a job that can make a difference to someone’s life and perhaps change it for the better. Supporting, caring, enabling and advocating for the people I care for.

Rachel Thomson - Art“Things have been really difficult during Covid as we were unable to have any visitors due to Government policy and restrictions. We became their means to have contact with their families, phone calls, video calls and helping write letters and cards.

“I think the community spirit is generally alive and well. Covid has made everyone realise what is important, not seeing family, friends, not able to hug, touch and comfort each other during these difficult times has been really hard. I do think people have worked around this and found other ways to support each other.”

Rachel has always loved animals and dogs were part of her life for a long time – losing them is always so hard and she did think for a time that she may not have another.

“However, I took my Dad’s dog to come and live with me when Dad went to live abroad. Then one day a small dog who had been living on the streets in Romania came up on a dog rescue page that I had been supporting for a few years. She was such a small broken looking dog we decided to offer her a home. That was the start of it!

Rachel - Scooby“These dogs have been through so much but still trust people. I have four rescue street dogs and I have taken a couple of these into work. The residents I care for absolutely love this. Scooby, one of our dogs, is such an excitable nitwit (in the best possible way) but as soon as he sees the residents he gets on their knee and has a snooze. Touch is so important, and it makes both the resident and the dog happy. It is something I will continue to do.

“I started painting to give people gifts and previously had raised thousands of pounds through sewing bags, shawls etc. I painted a picture of a hare for Kim’s Home for Elderly/Housed Dogs – Wendy Jordan runs this rescue and is an incredible woman. She has given everything to dogs. She sold squares and the painting raised £1,250. I was astonished, but motivated. I have since painted and donated paintings for Silver Fox Dog Rescue and Loving Homes Dog Rescue in Orkney. These charities have saved our four dogs, plus many more.”

Rachel is very modest when it comes to her talent for painting and sewing – but her works have raised many thousands of pounds – undoubtedly saving many dogs lives.

“I started painting in December 2020. Before I had done little bits and pieces but this year I have been painting most days. It has been so therapeutic and also given me confidence. It has taken a while to accept a compliment and not feel like an imposter. Now I feel painting is very much part of me.”

Rachel maintains that she gets a great sense of satisfaction out of what she does.

“I can’t give a home to all the dogs in desperate conditions, but I can help save them so other people can give them homes. It breaks my heart the conditions that these dogs live in, they have as much potential as any pedigree, as any other dog. They just need a chance.”

Rachel with four furry kids

Rachel is also one of life’s glass is full type of people.

“I absolutely cannot imagine living anywhere other than Orkney. My husband, Ally, came to Orkney for a couple of days around 16 years ago and loved it so much he never left!

“I love the community, the way people still look out and after one another. I love the beaches, the huge amount of sky, the wildlife and the sea. I feel really lucky to be living in Orkney with the most supportive husband with a job I absolutely love and the best four furry kids and a cat who is in charge of all of us!”

School Place, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 1NY

Telephone: 01856 873535

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