Paul Rendle, technical director of intelligent transport systems in the Asia Pacific region, recently provided us with the latest update about the special Jacobs-sponsored Assistance Dog, Ace.
Over a virtual coffee, Paul talked about Ace’s journey over the last year, re-iterated why our Jacobs employee networks like ACE (Whom he is named after!) are such a great community to be a part of, and highlighted how our employee giving and volunteering program, Collectively℠, helped make this initiative possible.
Let’s talk with Paul:
Paul, the year has flown by – we can’t believe our gorgeous Jacobs-sponsored Assistance Dog is already a year old! Can you remind everyone about how our Ace came to be and how he’s captured so many people’s imagination?
Ace came about following a Collectively grant request I made last year to sponsor a dog through its two years of training with Assistance Dogs Australia (ADA). In May of last year, a litter of puppies was born just when the Collectively grant was approved. We were lucky enough to be assigned one that we could sponsor, get to see grow up and watch his journey as he trains to become an Assistance Dog that will eventually be placed with his new family. It was one of the feel-good stories of the year and Ace was an incredibly cute puppy that captured the attention of all us, not just inside Jacobs but also on social media and externally.
Tell us a little more about Australia Assistance Dogs and why this charity is so important to you.
ADA have been a part of my family for just over two years, when we received our family Assistance Dog, Izzie. Izzie is a three-year-old chocolate brown labrador that supports our son Oisin. Oisin is Autistic and also has an intellectual impairment. Izzie supports him at home and when we are out in public to help with his behavior and anxiety.
When Oisin is out in public (like going to the cinema) which can be crowded and noisy with lots of distractions, Izzie will work with him to divert his focus to her and not the environment he is in. If it wasn’t for ADA, we wouldn’t be in a position to be able to take Oisin out as safely as we do now that we have Izzie. We waited four years to get Izzie; from when we first attended the parent workshops to being invited to apply for a dog then waiting for a suitable dog to match to what we needed. Izzie was worth the wait and my wife Rachael and I wanted to provide another family with the same opportunity as we have been given.
“Our ACE network is a great place to meet people that understand what it’s like to live with or care for someone that has a disability. It is possible to share your story with them and know that the person you are talking to understands what it is you are talking about. They say "bring your whole self to work" and our ACE network allows you to do that which is just great.”
How has Ace’s training has gone over the year? Any stand out moments or highlights you'd like to share?
One thing we have been able to do, that not all sponsors get to do, is attend training with Ace and watch him develop. We’ve had a few sessions with him and a couple stand out. One of our first meetings with Ace was at the Brisbane Botanical Gardens and Izzie and Ace got to do some basic distraction technique training together. This was meant to be with the three kids we had running around but also ended up including two very grumpy peacocks that made it known they were not happy with Izzie and Ace being in their area. Luckily, both dogs did great!
Another was the first time Ace came home, just before Christmas, where we got to have an off lead play with Izzie. He also got introduced to our cats and they soon showed him who runs the house! In the last 12 months since he was placed with his puppy education family, he’s learned the basics that he will need before he gets to go on to the national training center in Sydney where he will finish his training.
Ace was such a fitting name for our gorgeous puppy - why has our ACE employee network been so valuable to you? Why should people consider signing up – what kind of support may people expect and what types of events can people sign up for?
Our ACE network is a great place to meet people that understand what it’s like to live with or care for someone that has a disability. It is possible to share your story with them and know that the person you are talking to understands what it is you are talking about.
An Autistic child that is having a meltdown is not being naughty or in need of discipline there is a reason they are in the red zone, the ACE community understands and you feel like you can be yourself with them. They say "bring your whole self to work" and our ACE network allows you to do that which is just great.
Can you share how the Collectively process worked for you? Your grant application was successful and your story just goes to show what amazing things can happen if people do fill out the form! Any tips for any Jacobs teammates thinking about it?
It’s 12 months on now since we started this journey and I still can’t believe it has happened sometimes.
The Collectively grant that I applied for needed to align with two things; Jacobs’ values and the United Nations Sustainability goals. If the charity you want to work with falls within those two, then get thinking and start writing and applying.
My advice is to provide as much information as possible to allow the review panel to make an informed decision. Also worth remembering, while Collectively is a great way to give, we only have limited budgets so if you want to get it across the line put the effort in. Reach out to the Collectively team as well, they really helped me when I was working through it all.
Finally, what are some of the special highlights this past year for you?
For me being part of the International Day of Disability event was a highlight and being able to provide the a pupdate on Ace as part of the global event. Plus, of course, seeing Ace grow his skills and grow in size throughout the year and finally seeing my own kids develop and grow their confidence while working with Izzie.
About the interviewee
Paul Rendle is the Asia Pacific region Technical Director for Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) and has been working in ITS for over 26 years across the U.K., New Zealand and Australia. Paul is married to Rachael and they have three children, two of whom are Neurodiverse.
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