Mariyah’s life-changing volunteer experience

Dec 20, 2022

When she first knocked on Elaine’s door, volunteer Mariyah Hoosenally couldn’t have known that soon she would have to be kicked out of that same house at the end of the day, she’d come to love spending time there so much. This is her and Elaine’s story of a very special friendship. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Mariyah, and I am a final year medical student at Deakin University completing my clinical years at Ballarat Base Hospital. Originally, I am from Hong Kong and have studied in London, moving to Australia in 2019 for my medical studies.  

How did you get involved with In Great Company? 

One of my medical colleagues has been involved with In Great Company for a few years, and when I told them I was looking for a way to get involved in the Ballarat community they pointed me in their direction. I haven’t looked back since.  

Did anything or anyone in your life play a role in providing inspiration for your involvement with lonely seniors?  

Growing up in a family oriented culture, my elders were the patriarchs and matriarchs of the house, and they were given respect from all in our family and community. However, when they passed away, there was a very sizeable hole at the dinner
table and at community events – I missed hearing their stories and their words of wisdom. Moving to Australia, the shift in culture towards increased aged care homes and elders living alone was new to me, and definitely something
I had to adjust to. The main thought in my mind was whether they felt lonelier – my elders were constantly surrounded by family and friends, but this didn’t seem to be the case for seniors here.  

Meeting elders in the hospital during my studies, the commonest theme across our conversations were that of fear of being alone or current feelings of loneliness, especially when their families were moving out of their towns for job opportunities.
This is a shift that not only exists in Australia, but all around the world. As someone who has experienced small periods of loneliness once in a while, I have had a glimpse into what social deprivation can do for one’s physical and
mental health, and I can tell you know it is no cakewalk. It increases your risk of nearly everything, such as cardiovascular disease, dementia, and depression. As our world ages, loneliness amongst the elderly is a phenomenon that will become
the norm – it is truly important to me to help this cause by making just one person in this world feel less lonely.

What attracted you to this organisation in particular? 

In Great Company’s motto, ‘Life is better shared’, really sung to me as I stumbled across their website. Reading the volunteer stories, and organisation’s values and ethos really excited me – I found somewhere that would help
me facilitate my passion for helping those who are lonely into actual change. 

Who do you visit and what do your visits involve? 

I visit Elaine, a lovely lady living in the Ballarat Community. Our visits usually involve tea and a long chat –sometimes spanning into a several hour gossip sessio n– with an occasional visit to a coffee shop.

Can you tell us what makes this friendship special for you?  

This relationship is so incredibly special to me because of how it evolved and what it transformed into. I  remember first knocking on her door, feelings of trepidation overwhelming me –what if we don’t get along? What if I make
a bad first impression? What if this really isn’t for me? I’m sure Elaine had these thoughts as well. However, week by week, visit by visit, we opened up more and more to one another, sharing more of our personal stories that make
us who we are. She became my trusted confidant –someone I could go to when I was having an issue at university or at work, and she would not beat around the bush when giving me advice. At first, I would timidly knock on her door, hoping
that we would get along – now, she has to kick me out of the house after we are down a few teas and it’s almost time for her supper. In Great Company has helped me find a fantastic friendship with someone I would never have met
otherwise, and I truly believe I am a better person for it.  

Do you have a message to share? 

This volunteering role may not be for everyone; it requires commitment to the cause and patience in the process of building a new relationship. However, the rewards are absolutely extraordinary. It has truly been a life changing experience for

If you’d like to become a volunteer with In Great Company and make a senior’s life less lonely, you can do so here.