National Volunteer Week 2020 - Volunteers' perspectives

Edna's story                

Edna runs the local Probus Gardening Club, where a bunch of garden devotees convene once a month to chat everything plants.  Edna, herself, has a large manicured backyard and tends to all the plants and flowers herself, offering cuttings to her fellow members.  She leaves the big jobs to a handyman.  At 89 years she is clear that getting out in her garden is keeping her physically dexterous and mentally sane.  Probus is one of 3 gardening clubs she frequents, but her inclination to nature isn't the only thing keeping her grounded.

Following 2 hip replacements and a back operation she became a regular at Connect Health for hydrotherapy treatment, where she made new friends in treatment as well as becoming a favourite of movement as part of a lifelong commitment to callisthenics. From when she was 5 she trained in callisthenics and travelled to a regional centre taking part in yearly competitions until she was a teenager.  Edna, along with her friend, assists with the physical exercise in the hydrotherapy pool which she believes is a saviour in physical recovery.

Edna was part of a 'typing pool' working in government but she told me her life changed the moment she was recommended for a position with a chemistry professor at Monash University. He was all for self-made professionals and they worked together for 30 good years.  It gave her great independence and purpose in addition to the responsibility she already enjoyed in raising a family.  All the neighbours' kids went to Monash too and she would drive them and see them on campus, she describes it as an enjoyable place to work.

And then there's Edna's friendships.  Her best friend lives in Queensland.  They travel to visit each other as regularly as possible.  Edna and her husband owned a caravan and would long haul to visit their friends on the Sunshine Coast.  Her friend’s husband was a metallurgist who travelled around Australia at regular intervals which enabled Edna and Keith to follow on their yearly holidays, including Darwin, Papua New Guinea and Rum Jungle.  As Edna prepares for her 90th birthday this year, her friend has committed to traveling south for the celebration.

There is a theme here of great commitment, commitment to living a life.  There was real 'get up and go' in Edna's tone, her work ethic didn't depart with retirement, instead it has made her more determined to busy herself with volunteer work, her garden and her extended family which includes 2 great grandchildren.  She balances the support she gets from her children, like a mandatory Netflix subscription service with the support she provides for others.  She is alive and well because of a life of service and her dedication to optimism.

How volunteering changes communities - By Leesa

Connect Health & Community has more volunteers than staff members to help our clients and staff to run these groups

These volunteers help to volunteer to support the staff in groups such as:

  • Assist with our social support groups for frail, older people or those with an acquired brain injury
  • Assist with strength training, mobility groups and gentle exercise     
  • Assist with the hydrotherapy program.
  • Support Tai Chi and walking groups.
  • Assist with health promotion programs and activities.
  • Maintain gardens, equipment or motor vehicles.
  • Drive or assist with our Community Driving
  • Raise funds through the auxiliary for special projects and
  • Office work helping doing computer input, filing, proof reading, photocopying and collating.

Connect Health & Community is lucky to have these volunteers come in and give their spare time to help supporting our groups.  Without the volunteer Connect Health & Community may only have a few groups or Connect Health & Community may not existed at all. 

My name is Leesa, I am a volunteer at Connect Health & Community for eleven years (too long, only joking).  My motivation to become a volunteer was to help clients who have disabilities.  I have a disability called Cerebral Palsy, which affects the right side of my body and also affects my speech. Even through I have a disability it doesn’t affect me doing anything I want do, it may just take a bit longer but I get there in the end.  I am really enjoying my volunteering at the moment with Connect Health & Community in Marketing and communication.

My boss Peter and his assistant Alexandra gave me a chance to be on the Marketing and Communication team.  At first I wasn’t quite sure if I would be working with them due to my disability, as I am a bit slower than an able-bodied person but I am still here after nearly a year ago. I really enjoying it so much and it has given me the confidence to do this.  Thank you Peter and Alexandra giving me chance to be on your team and putting with too.  Time to time you may see me around the organisation taking photos, interviewing people and also videoing people about Connect Health and Community.

My role in Marketing and Communications as the following:

  1. To interview Staff and Clients on different issues
  2. Take a video of the interview
  3. Make up the questions for the interviewer as such as How is Connect Health & Community is helping you?
  4. Edit the videos
  5. If there is something coming (like Volunteer Week) I will do a article on it (as I am doing now for Volunteer Week)

Before I was working with Peter and Alexandra in the Marketing & Communication team, I started volunteering with the Brain Injury Group (Stopover Group) assisting clients with activities such as ten pin bowling, volleyball with balloon, strength training, card and board games, lunchtime preparation, and outings.

I would take photos of clients, with their permission, to make a DVD for them. 

I then volunteered in the Volunteer Co-ordinator’s office doing computer input, filing, proof reading, photocopying and collating.  I also volunteered as a Hydrotherapy pool sitter, collecting money from clients and recording their attendance, handing out and putting away equipment, and making sure clients were safe while they exercised in the water.

Before I came to Connect Health & Community, I was a volunteer at Monash Special Development School in Clayton for fifteen years, which I loved because I could help children who have disabilities to do things by themselves including feed themselves, communicate by talking or using a communication or a bit sign language.  I had one special child that I looked after for six years, she was 12kg in weight and I think her parents had trouble coping with her and her disability.  I had to bath and feed her, which would take about two hours and then she would sleep until it was home time.  I decided it was time for a change to another volunteer job.

The Volunteers at Connect Health & Community have their heart in the right spot to give up their time to help the Staff and Clients to help the clients achieve their goals.  Volunteers work hard to achieve the client’s goals and they bend over backwards to help out.  Connect Health and Community volunteers pick up the pieces when the staff can’t do it. 

Without the volunteers their time and the care of the clients and staff, it would be impossible for Connect Health & Community to run all these programs.  That is why Connect Health & Community takes the time to thank the volunteers to celebrate Volunteer’s Week in May every year. 

The last word I would like to say is I love being volunteer at Connect Health & Community because the staff looks after volunteers like gold and they really enjoying having you as helping the staff and Clients when you are there and so you can give back to the Community.    If you can only give one hour per month it still helps out.

My life as a volunteer  - By Chris B

Over the years I have volunteered in my community in many different ways and at many different places and each experience has had a positive impact on my life. 

I started volunteering over 20 years ago with the St. Vincent de Paul society.  We worked with disadvantaged children organising fun days out for them, camps and homework groups.  It was through this volunteer work that I met like minded people who wanted to play a role in enhancing the lives of others.  I have my volunteering at St. Vincent de Paul to thank for meeting my husband.

Since then I’ve volunteered in various roles at councils, our local school and kinder, hospital and most recently at Connect Health.  My role at Connect Health involves working in the Community Transport team in an administrative support and intake role.  This has allowed me to utilise my general intake nursing skills but also allowed me to gain admin experience and enhance my skills in new ways such as using the My Aged Care portal.

I know that my volunteering has had a positive impact on many people including individuals who have appreciated me simply having time to have a chat with them or staff members where I have been able to ease their load in small ways.  Feeling valued and knowing I am making a small difference is enough to motivate me to continue volunteering.

On reflection, my life as a volunteer has provided me with opportunities to make meaningful and valuable connections with people in my community and I think that is what I love the most.  When it has been difficult to commit to paid work due to family commitments, volunteering has provided me with a sense of purpose and achievement.  It has allowed me to maintain my existing skillset as well as learn news skills along the way.  I have met some fabulous people on my volunteering journey and developed some amazing friendships that I treasure.  In many ways volunteering is a form of respite for me where I am able to leave my role of mother of four children, wife or carer behind and just be “Chris” again and it’s finding that sense of identity amongst all the craziness of my life which I find so beneficial.

No doubt about it, volunteering has broadened my horizons and it has been an enriching experience with mutual benefit to both myself and the people I have supported.  I highly recommend volunteering so that you too can experience how rewarding it can be.

Chris B.

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