Volunteering is about giving back to your community, but often you benefit just as much from the interactions as those you’re trying to help. Andrew tells us his story, one of bingo, meaningful connections, and living stories.
Andrew Wells has been a member of our volunteer team since February 2019, and this has given him the opportunity to share his passion and skills with his community in a number of ways.
In Great Company Program Manager Emma Moore met Andrew for breakfast one morning, and they chatted about why Andrew chose to volunteer with us and get some insight into a day in the life of a volunteer.
What drew you to volunteer with In Great Company?
“I grew up on the Gold Coast and went to school here, but moved to Sydney, where I lived for a long time. I moved back to the Gold Coast about a year ago to care for my mum who wasn’t well, and decided I needed to get to know my new community again.
I saw an advertisement on Facebook and thought volunteering for Feros Care through In Great Company would be a great way to join my local community and do some networking to build my connections.
Starting as a community visitor, I was matched with Kevin and John, who both live near me. I visit them both weekly, and we chat or get out and about. I didn’t realise how important the volunteer program was until the first time I visited Kevin, and his face literally lit up – it still does each time I visit, which is lovely.
I also ventured into the fascinating world of bingo, and after practising my “bingo lingo”, I became a bingo caller at the fortnightly Feros Care event. As a caller I had such a laugh and loved calling the numbers each week.
My favourite thing was seeing their faces when they won and celebrating their birthdays with a special shout out. My catch phrase for this was ‘we don’t get older, we get better’, which always got a cheer!”
How has being a volunteer benefitted you, what does it bring to your life?
“Very sadly I lost my mum within months of moving back here last year, and within a very short time also my dear sister. It was truly a devastating time for our family.
At the time, I had been completing a Cert IV in Aged Care to complement my interest in supporting our seniors, and although I completed this, following our sadness, I decided to put this qualification to one side, and concentrate on volunteering instead, which truly fills my heart back up and helps me to focus.
I now have just my dad and one other sister left, and I am a full-time carer for my dad, living with him. Volunteering gives me a break from that caring role, it is time for me, and a time that I can get out in my community and connect with other people.
I have a huge passion for living biographies, and just love listening to the stories the clients share with me, politics, famous people, war heroes, all kind of things. Like I say, everyone has a good book in them.
Volunteering supports my own health and wellness during times of stress, both physically and mentally. It really is good for you!”
I believe you also made a special call on Christmas Day, can you tell me about that?
“Since our loss last year, we decided as a family that we would get together on Christmas Eve to spend family time together, and then make Christmas Day all about giving back to other people – which was why I wanted to visit John on Christmas Day.
It turned out that John was heading off to share lunch at Wommin Bay village, and enjoy his first Christmas dinner in 30 years thanks to the huge volunteer team efforts. Nonetheless, it was great to touch base for a chat and to hear his excitement about it all. We chat on the phone often now as a virtual volunteer. I am definitely hoping to visit John in his home soon.”
What is next for you Andrew – I hear you might be looking for another volunteer role to add to your portfolio?
“Well, last year I went to help on one of the bus trips that Feros Care put on for the clients to the races on Melbourne Cup Day, and we took the group to a surf club in their finest race wear! The group had a ball as they placed their bets, and one of the women even won best dressed lady. It was a great day, and really gave me a taste for helping people access their community.
I love it, and decided then that I wanted to do more, so I am doing my bus induction next week to be a driver, and then off I go. I can’t wait!”
Tell us something we may not know about you?
I am a massive fan of the British comedian Ricky Gervais, and his show ‘Extras’, so I decided to become one! I was actually an extra on a movie set last year, and the movie is about to air on Netflix soon. It’s called ‘The End’ and it’s about people dealing with the end of their lives. I play one of the patients in another bed.
It was so much fun, the catering was fabulous, and although you sit around a lot during the day, you get to see how it all happens on set, which is fascinating. I also got to meet some wonderful actors such as Noni Hazlehurst and Brooke Satchwell.”
What do you think the benefits of being a volunteer have been to you, and what would you say to someone thinking of becoming a volunteer?
“I have been able to get to know my community, and make connections both with clients and other volunteers, and I have lots of variety in all the different roles I do. Volunteering at In Great Company is so flexible, and I can move around and take on new things as I have capacity or try roles for a time and move to something new, which is great and keeps me interested.
I get a break from my caring role when I am volunteering, and I get to enjoy those life stories I mentioned earlier. I have a passion for art and history, and I just love collecting those fascinating stories, and meeting people who have led the most fascinating lives.”
Any final words to new volunteers thinking of joining the movement?
“You have got to do it. I can honestly say I come away from Kevin or John feeling amazing, the benefits to me are a tonic, it isn’t about me really, but in giving that time I get a massive burst of good feeling. It’s one of the best things I have ever done.”
A massive thank you Andrew for your time today and every day as a volunteer with us. Without kindness warriors like you, we simply could not do the work we do!