When it comes to volunteering, Bruce knows a thing or two: he shares his tips with others wanting to volunteer, and some of the stories that has warmed his heart (and ours) throughout this journey. Read his interview below!
When did you get involved with IGC? What motivated you to get involved?
My wife and I retired about 3 years ago with the intention of travelling around Australia, however, after the pandemic started, all of our plans changed and we had the van and the car but nowhere to go, and we didn’t want to just stay home.
Deciding to keep busy, around October 2020 I found a volunteering advertisement on SEEK and thought that volunteering would be a great way to educate people with technology and internet set up who were not comfortable using it. I had done this in the past with my technical background, so it felt like a good fit.
What motivated me was my wife’s mum passing away in 1996 from dementia and noticing how a lot of people at the residential facility had no family to visit them and we always knew we wanted to give back one day by visiting lonely people.
What attracted you to IGC in particular?
I hadn’t heard of Feros Care or In Great Company before, but I liked the sound of the ad and the people so decided to apply.
What motivates you to stay involved?
The feeling is hard to describe. After visiting my clients, I always feel a deep sense of pride and happiness that I have played a small part in contributing to their lives. It always puts me in a good mood after a visit.
Tell us a bit about your clients; how many are you visiting? What activities do you do together?
I am currently visiting 2 clients named Victor and John, I visit them both on the same day, as it is a 120 km round trip, so I visit John for around 3 hours and send emails with him after setting up his laptop, then I stop at Victor’s house for a cuppa and a chat on the veranda
John has Cerebral Palsy, and having never met anyone with this disability before, at first I found communicating difficult, having to concentrate on what he was saying. However, this has improved with time. John and I enjoy laughing together throughout the visits and John always looks forward to the next one. Whenever I am walking away after a visit with John and he laughs, I feel a deep sense of joy that I have made a real difference to his day.
Victor is quite different and having dementia, some of my time is spent listening to stories about his house which he repeats. I listen to him patiently even though he has forgotten that he has told me the same story. Sometimes we just eat some biscuits with a cuppa and look out at the beautiful mountain view from his property saying nothing, just enjoying each other’s company.
What contribution or achievement are you most proud of?
John was quite depressed before the volunteer visits and they are noticeably making a huge difference to his moods and motivation. John is a disability advocate and spends time with me helping send emails to different commissions and organisations.
Does anyone in your life play a role in supporting your involvement? In providing inspiration?
My wife is the best support network as we have the one car and she is left without transport when I am volunteering. However, she is very supportive of the importance of volunteer visits, and loves hearing me share stories of my time with the clients.
Do you have an anecdote about your volunteering journey so far that really moved you?
My favourite story coming to mind is about John, and one of my recent visits whereby he showed me to a room containing a briefcase with his initials on it. When he opened the briefcase, inside was a medal, a tie pin and some old photos. It turns out that John had been quite a big deal as a disability advocate, and back in the 70s during the Whitlam era, he was invited to parliament house whereby he received an OAM (Order of Australia Medal) for his work. The old photos showed him in a suit with the tie pin receiving his medal looking very sharp. These days John is quite bald, so when I looked at the photo I said “Look at that! You have hair!” which caused John to burst into a huge belly laugh like I hadn’t seen before. Even his carer said he had never shown her the briefcase and so I felt privileged that he would share this information with me and laugh like he hadn’t for many years. This really made the connection feel real and that I was in the smallest way making a huge impact on this man and we were not just volunteer and client, but friends.
Do you have any messages to share? Tips or tricks?
Go in with an open mind and be a patient person. Everyone is different and you must be yourself, but courteous and respectful of the client. The other thing I think is important is that it’s their, visit not mine, and sometimes we can get caught up in ourselves or not realise that the littlest things can make a difference to a client. Lastly, don’t be afraid of silence as sometimes saying nothing is fine, and just being present with the client is enough. I find myself and Victor doing this sometimes and it can speak volumes. Don’t feel the need to fill silent moments with words for the sake of it.
In Great Company want to thank Bruce, and all our other volunteers who make a difference to our clients’ lives with their visits.