A Barnstaple man has spoken out ahead of National Volunteers Week about how volunteering has helped his mental health.

Dave Wood, 53, from Barnstaple, started volunteering at Dogs Trust Ilfracombe two years ago in May 2016 and said it gave his life purpose.

Dave suffers from depression so originally joined the team at the West Down centre to get out and about and help improve his mental wellbeing.

He is now a member of the 60-strong volunteer team who give vital support to the dogs, making sure they have everything they need whilst they wait for their forever homes.

Dave said: “Volunteering has had such an incredible impact on my life.

Dave Wood has formed a special bond with Lara at Dogs Trust Ilfracombe.Dave Wood has formed a special bond with Lara at Dogs Trust Ilfracombe.

“I’m around positive people who love dogs as much as I do and getting out and about has worked wonders for my physical health as I’m much more active than I used to be.

“As well as improving my general fitness, my mental wellbeing has improved too.

“Simply getting up in the morning to go and help the team and dogs at the Ilfracombe centre gives me a sense of purpose and determination and because I develop close bonds with the dogs and have made new friends, I don’t want to let them down.”

Dave said he had developed special bonds with many of the dogs, but one in particular held a special place in his heart.

“Lara has been in kennels for as long as I’ve been volunteering and I only have to think of her when I’m feeling down and she brings a smile to my face,” he said.

“My favourite time of day is ‘Lara time’ and I enjoy taking her for walks or just sitting with her and giving her lots of fuss.”

Dave volunteers three times a week, notching up more than 1,500 hours of volunteering in the past two years doing tasks such helping with the laundry, cleaning, walking and playing with the dogs and generally making their lives as enjoyable as possible.

He added: “The best part of volunteering is seeing the dogs find their forever home, especially if I’ve spent some time with them and got to know them.

“The change of scenery, getting out of the house and having a purpose in my daily life is something that has benefited me hugely.

“My confidence has grown and it’s such a rewarding experience I would certainly recommend volunteering to other people.”

Elise Watson, rehoming centre manager at Dogs Trust Ilfracombe, said: “Without volunteers like Dave, we couldn’t give the dogs everything they need and deserve whilst they are here with us.

“One volunteer taking a dog for a walk frees up a member of staff to give another dog that bit more TLC that they might need, especially when they have first arrived, or a little bit of extra training or playtime.

“Our volunteers are a vital part of the team and we want to say a huge thank you to every single one of them for the invaluable contribution they make.”

If you would like to find out more about volunteering with Dogs Trust, call 0300 303 0292 or visit www.dogstrust.org.uk/volunteering to find out more.