Kathy Thomson has only been a volunteer with In Great Company since November, but she has already won over many clients and has made them into friends. We sat down with her to chat all things volunteering. Read her interview below!
When did you get involved with IGC? What motivated you to get involved?
November last year, so very recent but got stuck straight in. I am doing a Bachelor of Counselling with Griffith University, and as part of the degree had to do some volunteering and saw this opportunity. It seemed like a good company to get
involved with and something different that I haven’t had much interaction with or spent a lot of time with seniors.
What attracted you to IGC in particular?
I had an interest in broadening my horizons and giving back to seniors. Giving back to people, having an opportunity to chat with them and form new bonds has been really rewarding and very much in line with my goals as a student counselor.
What motivates you to stay involved?
Clients! It’s such a varied experience with each of them, and I’m pleased to say we have become very good friends. Some just talk about family or friends, other talk about deep philosophical concepts and the chats we share are always
so different and interesting. The joy it brings me, and my clients – the lively conversations are so great. I didn’t expect some of the friendships that have developed, or things that I have gotten out of it personally. It’s
amazing to see how ongoing communication can bring back memories for people, and see their personality come out more and more. It’s given me an interest in some of the potential studies out there about the correlation between memory
and socialising, how it is impacted and how important just having a conversation with someone can be.
Tell us a bit about your clients; how many are you visiting? What activities do you do together?
Five clients but three regular visits. We have lots of conversations, it’s mostly just bonding and spending time together, whatever we are doing. With my clients I’ve had afternoon teas, long conversations, and done activities such as
jigsaw puzzles. All clients are local, so they are part of the same community area and have that in common. Once COVID restrictions ease I would love to take them out for trips to the cinema or on outings, as that’s been a bit trickier
currently but we enjoy just spending time together.
What contribution or achievement are you most proud of?
Listening to clients’ stories and communicating has not only provided them with company and happiness, but me too. My clients have been so encouraging of my studies, supporting me as I support them. One of my clients even rushed home from
a family visit because she wanted to keep her standing appointment and didn’t want to miss the visit as it is so important to her.
I was surprised by how much I have gotten out of it, too, even just knowing that I’m doing something for someone else lifts my spirits. With my own life changes and stresses, I have found it amazing how much the visits have helped me by giving
me something to look forward to. I always leave my clients’ homes feeling lighter after a good chat.
Does anyone in your life play a role in supporting your involvement? In providing inspiration?
My beautiful family are a big support. My husband and two children are my rock and are very encouraging of my studies and volunteering.
Do you have an anecdote about your volunteering journey so far that really moved you?
One of my clients has been doing jigsaw puzzles and I didn’t want to interfere, but one day my client said she was having trouble with finishing one so I had a look and we started doing them together. Now it is something we both get
a kick out of, doing puzzles together and enjoying that activity.
The simple joys can be so important. One of my clients goes down every week to buy special cakes for us to enjoy together and it’s so lovely that they take the time to do that and it makes me feel very fortunate.
Do you have any messages to share? Tips or tricks?
Make sure to consider your clients’ needs, even as simple as giving a call to a client the day before to remind them of a visit.
I was worried when I started about reaching out and whether they’d want me to visit or enjoy spending time with me but that first phone call, while daunting, is so worth it. I even wrote a script, I was so nervous, but that first client
answered and the fear evaporated. The reward of their enthusiasm and excitement for the visit, and the value we each get out of it is wonderful.
Volunteering has confirmed for me how much I enjoy speaking with and working with people. My clients’ encouragement, my interactions with them and the value of connections we have built has reinforced that I am taking the right path with her
Bachelor of Counselling. It was a big change in my life from working in science to studying counselling, and it has opened so many new doors for me, which volunteering has become a big part of.
I’m so appreciative of the opportunity In Great Company has provided and the bonds I have formed with my clients. Each of us find something of value in the experience that we will always cherish.