Ness, a vibrant adventurer living in Canberra, shares her story of her journey as a volunteer with In Great Company. Reflecting on how the power of warmth and companionship with her client Valerie, demonstrates that spending time with seniors in need can brighten lives and bring precious moments of joy to all involved.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I’m Ness living in Canberra with my husband. My favourite colour is green; I love hiking and exploring Australia. I am an absolute fanatic about Beyoncé and currently work in the Defence Industry. I previously served 10 years in the Australian Army and am passionate about all things Supply Chain or Logistics. My husband and I enjoy traveling around the world (when we’re allowed to), good food and wine, and each other’s company; we’re building our first home, which has been one of this year’s highlights.
How did you get involved with In Great Company?
I was watching Old People’s Home For 4-Year-Olds, and the program really moved me. It motivated me to research volunteering to help the elderly combat loneliness.
What attracted you to the cause or why do you volunteer with seniors facing loneliness and isolation?
When I was younger, I didn’t have the fortune of having Grandparents. I admire and cherish my Husband’s relationship with his Grandparents and see the positive impacts it has for all parties involved.
Did anything or anyone in your life play a role in providing inspiration for your involvement with lonely seniors?
My Husband Richard, and my transition out of Defence. Once I left the Army, I was looking for another way to serve my country or provide more fulfilling and meaningful work to my community.
Who do you visit and what do your visits involve?
I visit Valerie. She lives in a retirement village. We mostly go for a short walk to the local café, have a cuppa, and chat. For her birthday this year, we went out to one of her favourite cafés, and she ordered the pancakes for brekky!
Can you tell us what makes this friendship special for you?
Valerie worked in the public sector, in the Department of Education, and as a qualified Librarian. So, watching her eyes light up when we talk about work, politics, and business is special to watch!
Have you had any challenges along your volunteer journey?
I wouldn’t say there have been challenges; however, there can be some difficult conversations or gripes that one might have with family members or frustrations with difficulties they might face when getting older. I found that all Valerie wants is a supportive, listening ear.
Do you have an experience shared with your senior client that really moves you?
I must say Valerie surprised me when it came to Easter time and was very kind in getting me a chocolate bunny and I laughed because I had gotten her a chocolate egg!! Great minds think alike I say!
Have you learnt anything about yourself or others through this experience?
I’ve learned that all you need to make someone’s day is a 15 min phone call, which makes a big difference for them. When I first met Valerie, she seemed very down and not motivated to do much, and now when I call her. Her voice lightens up; you can hear how happy she is, and she laughs a lot on our calls. She has a very cheeky and quirky sense of humour.
What do you think it’s important to volunteer by visiting older people in need of friendship?
I believe it’s important because, at the end of the day, people forget that we’re all human and need companionship. Imagine living your life with your family and friends and suddenly being unable to have that independence and having your whole life taken away from you. Loneliness and broken hearts are not healthy for anyone at any age! I gain just as much from this friendship as Valerie does. It will make people more empathetic and compassionate to older people and remind them that need is required.
Do you have a message to share with others looking to become a friendly visitor volunteer?
Go ahead and sign yourself up! I was a bit nervous, to begin with, but I remembered they were just as nervous, and they were brave to put their hand up to ask for assistance. I gain value from my friendship with Valerie, and I also gain a different perspective in the conversations. We have a great time together, with plenty of laughs and genuine connections.