National Volunteer Week runs from 17-23 May and celebrates the significant contribution of Australia’s almost six million volunteers. Each year volunteers dedicate over 600 million hours to help others.
Last year, hundreds of people volunteered with MCM: being companions to older people via our Community Visitors Scheme; mentoring young people to learn to drive through the L2P Learner Driver; or becoming a friend to a person with a disability.
We spoke to two volunteers, Narelle and Hannah, who are members of our Community Visitors Scheme. Volunteers are paired up with elderly people, who may be lonely or isolated, living in Government-funded aged care homes or in their own home and receiving a home care package. Narelle and Hannah told us about the friendships they have made with the older people they support and what they enjoy most about volunteering.
Narelle: I work as an Education Support Officer at a local primary school 14 hours a week. Before this I worked for Australian Customs for 30 years. I have a son and a daughter and a nearly 2-year-old grandson. I love my football and regularly attend Richmond games with my son. I love staying fit. I train with a PT group 3 times a week and I am training to complete a walk/run marathon in August. I also love to read.
Hannah: I’m a 31-year-old female, living in Prahran. I moved from London to Tasmania with my parents and sister in 2002 when I was 12 and then moved to Melbourne in 2013. I have a Bachelor of Sociology and Philosophy and a Master of Criminology from Melbourne University which I completed at the end of 2019.
I work as a Program Support Officer at Youth Activating Youth, a non-for-profit organisation that supports vulnerable multicultural youth and their families in the areas of education, employment, health and wellbeing and community engagement. I really enjoy my work and I find it both challenging and rewarding. In the future, I hope to go into government and ideally work as a policy advisor in the Department of Justice and Community Safety.
I am an extrovert and really enjoy spending time with my friends and meeting new people. I also really enjoy exercising and listening to music.
Narelle: I have been volunteering with MCM for 3 years. I have done some volunteer work with Hume Shire Meals on Wheels, helping to serve meals and talk to clients at a weekly lunch.
Hannah: I have been volunteering with MCM since April 2020, so 13 months.
Narelle: I usually go to the nursing home and spend time talking about current affairs, books, and my work. I bring books for my friend to read. I share photos of my grandson. I keep her up to date with my grandson and family. My partner does some ceramics and other art so I regularly show her his work. I have taken her out for lunch and coffee when I have time.
Hannah: Every Sunday around lunch time I visit Andrew who lives a ten minute walk from me. We usually go to the café around the corner to get a coffee and then we play the card game UNO and chat. We usually play best of 5 games and even though we play every week, it is always fun. Every three weeks we go for lunch together. I spend between 1-3 hours with Andrew every week, depending on whether we go to lunch or not. I can talk to Andrew about anything and we have a good laugh together.
Narelle: I had a period of not working for three years. I wanted to try something different and give back to the community. I also wanted to get out of my comfort zone and learn some new social skills.
Hannah: After finishing my degree and struggling to find suitable work I decided that I should volunteer. I felt this would give me valuable experience in the community services, which is the area I was hoping to find work in. I also thought that as I had so much time on my hands, I may as well put it towards something beneficial to my community. Additionally, I feel I have a moral responsibility to help and support others.
I liked the idea of volunteering with MCM and in the Community Visitors Scheme as I have always felt very sympathetic towards people who feel isolated and lonely as I have, at points felt this way in my own life. I also think that if I can make someone else happier and improve their lives, I would take pleasure in doing so and it also improve my own life at the same time. As an extrovert, I thought that I would thoroughly enjoy getting to know someone who I usually would not be given the opportunity to do so.
Additionally, as I moved from London when I was very young, I missed out on spending time with my grandparents and therefore, I felt that the role would, to an extent, give me a little bit of what I felt I was missing out on.
Narelle: I take so much out of my visits. They are as much for me as they are for my friend now. I do not have any grandparents that are still alive so it is nice to spend time with an older person and learn from them.
Hannah: Probably the most rewarding thing is the knowledge that I am helping to improve someone else’s life and providing much needed to support to someone who feels isolated and lonely. I have built a strong friendship with Andrew and I thoroughly enjoy spending time with him. We get on very well and he is a very good listener. I really look forward to Sundays because of Andrew!
I would highly recommend volunteering in this program and I feel lucky to have met Andrew. The staff working in the program are also very friendly and supportive and I feel fortunate to be involved.
If you are interested in volunteering with the Community Visitors Scheme or any of MCM’s volunteer programs, visit our Becoming a Volunteer page.