Sometimes all we need is someone to eat a lovely seafood lunch by the marina with, or to accompany to the hairdresser. That’s exactly what In Great Company volunteer Joanne Cox has become for 91-year-old Lillian Russell. Below, Joanne shares
her experiences volunteering for In Great Company.
When did you get involved with In Great Company (IGC)?
Late last year I saw a post in our local community Facebook page about volunteering with seniors. So, I applied and was matched with Lillian Russell – it’s coming up to 10 months now.
What attracted you to the cause or why do you volunteer?
I have some spare time in my week, and I had always wanted to volunteer. I also truly enjoy giving back to people and communities who may need some support and a little bit of love and kindness. I am also just grateful that I have such a wonderful
life and am therefore conscious of those who may not have the same experiences. I feel that COVID may have been tough on many people – especially the elderly.
Did anything in your life play a role in providing inspiration for your involvement?
I have an 84-year mum who is just a delight to be around. I have seen how excited she gets being around social groups. I feel her generation have so many wonderful stories and experiences to share – especially in this crazy, fast-paced
world we currently live in. Due to many factors, I feel that the elderly people do not reach out for help, especially when they really need it. COVID really made me realise how vulnerable seniors can be.
Who do you visit and what do your visits involve?
Lillian is 91 years old and has several health and mobility issues. I contact Lillian at least twice a week via phone to check in, and then we usually catch up for an outing either once or twice a fortnight. I am happy to run errands for Lillian
during the week which may include grocery shopping, picking up scripts, doctor appointments or basic handyman tasks.
What motivates you to stay involved with volunteering with lonely seniors?
I genuinely love spending time with Lillian and enjoy all the stories she tells me about her childhood in Italy, her long voyage to Sydney, Australia in the 40s, and her struggles and triumphs as a foreigner in a new country. I feel and see
the joy it brings her when we catch up and realise the power of our human connection. I really feel the difference my (limited) volunteering makes to other people.
In your opinion, what is the most important work that In Great Company does?
Human contact and social connection are the most important work that IGC does!
Do you have a story that really moved you?
Lillian had not had a professional hair cut in over 6 years. I organised for her to have a haircut at my own hairdresser, who is also Italian! It was awesome to see Lillian connect with a fellow Italian and speak in her native tongue. It brought
her so much joy.
Another recent trip saw us have lunch at Brooklyn Marina, where she would visit often with her family (including her mum who has now passed). Lillian was so emotional to sit in the sun and have a fresh seafood lunch. Simple outings bring her
so much joy, and she puts in an enormous effort to dress up quite glamorously.
Do you have a message to share?
It is extremely rewarding to volunteer for IGC. Being kind to other people is also very easy and can make such a huge difference to someone’s life.