Meet the volunteer: Kieran Conway

Oct 24, 2023

Kieran describes a special connection with Ian, an ailing senior confined to his bed, and how they find solace in the meaningful yet straightforward activities that provide them with a deep sense of fulfilment and appreciation.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, such as your profession, hobbies, or interests?

I go by the name of Kieran Conway. I hail from Derry, Northern Ireland, but I’ve been calling Australia home since 2007, alongside my wife, Kiera. During my rare moments of free time, you’ll find me engrossed in books, enjoying music, or simply just spending time moments with family and friends.

How did you first learn about In Great Company and what inspired you to choose volunteering with older seniors facing social isolation or loneliness?

My wife read about In Great Company and thought it might be right up my alley, given my Irish background and my penchant for engaging in lively conversations and listening to the stories of people’s lives.

Could you provide details about the senior(s) you spend time with and the activities you typically engage in during your visits?

Ian turned out to be the perfect choice for my first companion. He’s of Irish descent, quick-witted, a book enthusiast, and has a treasure trove of fascinating life anecdotes.

Sadly, due to his severe health condition, Ian is entirely bedridden, with limited movement, battling cancer and the pain it brings.

On my first visit, Ian told me that it would be nice to have someone other than medical professionals and retirement home staff to talk to. Ian’s health problems mean he’s unable to talk for long periods, but enjoys watching episodes of Castle or Tipping Point together. He also likes me reading to him; his preferences are Sidney Sheldon and Sherlock Holmes.

When he is able to talk, I love listening to stories from his life and just being some company for him, something he tells me every visit he’s grateful for.

What makes the friendship you’ve formed with your senior client(s) particularly meaningful or unique for you?

One of my dearest memories with Ian revolves around his boundless pride and affection for his children. His two daughters are gifted artists, and their paintings grace the walls of his room.

My time with Ian is incredibly rewarding. When I walk in, his face lights up, and it gives me a sense of purpose, making me eagerly anticipate our visits as well.

Have you gained any insights about yourself or others (personal growth, lessons learned, future actions) through your volunteer experience?

Many of the individuals you volunteer to spend time with have very limited social connections. In my situation, Ian is battling terminal cancer. His days fluctuate between good and bad, yet he never seeks or expects sympathy. I believe he appreciates my visits as a welcome distraction from his circumstances. We engage in conversation, I read to him, we watch TV, but we don’t delve into discussions about his illness, and I sense that means a great deal to him.

Our visits are flexible, and there are times when he’s too weary to chat. During those moments, I simply let him rest and plan to catch up at a later time.

Spending time with Ian has deepened my appreciation for my own health and family.

Do you have any words of encouragement or advice to those interested in joining this program?

I would wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone. It’s genuinely one of the most fulfilling choices I’ve ever made.

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