In a world where connections often seem just a click away, many individuals still grapple with isolation and loneliness. John, a resilient entrepreneur living with cerebral palsy, knows this all too well. For most of his life, he was a successful businessman, enjoying time spent on various ventures and the company of loved ones. Yet, a sudden downturn in the mid-2010s left him alone, seeking solace in a shed on a friend’s property. This is his story of resilience and renewal, thanks to his In Great Company volunteers.
A Life Transformed
John’s life took an unexpected turn when his thriving business and property ownership were replaced by a shed on a friend’s property. The sense of isolation was overwhelming, accentuated by his struggle to interact with the world due to his cerebral palsy.
In John’s words: “Although I am heavily affected by my cerebral palsy, I never felt like a disabled man. I was always independent and able to care for myself and those around me. But as my life worsened in the early 2010s, I was alone and without real friends.
My only family were my parents and my wife, and they had all passed, and I had been taken advantage of over the years by people I thought were friends.
To say I was heartbroken is an understatement. I had always stood up for others and earned my OAM for supporting those with a disability, and now I found myself needing help, but with none around me.”
A once-active participant in federal and state political circles, and now feeling a deep sense of loss, he wished for a sense of connection and community interaction that had defined his life previously.
It was then that John’s friend, Joy, discovered the In Great Company volunteer program. Hopeful for a change, she reached out, seeking someone to lift John’s spirits and rekindle his sense of belonging.
Volunteers Bruce and Alana: A Lifeline of Friendship
In this journey of rejuvenation, John found two remarkable companions in Bruce and Alana. Bruce, a retired businessman residing nearby in Hallidays Point, and Alana, a dairy farmer from Wingham, became the beacons of light in John’s life.
Alana’s busy schedule allows for weekly visits, during which the pair engages in heartfelt conversations about the world and its myriad issues, from politics to climate change. Bruce, on the other hand, goes above and beyond, visiting twice a week and dedicating hours to a wide range of activities. These include fixing up John’s living space, tending to his mobility devices, and even helping him draft and send emails.
The trio also shares a gardening project, cultivating a small courtyard at the back of John’s unit to attract local birdlife. And when John’s primary carer, Joy, visited family in New Zealand, Bruce and John ventured out for grocery shopping excursions, exploring the local shops and enjoying the outdoors.
Exploring the World Together with each Wheelchair Ride
As cerebral palsy and age gradually limit John’s mobility, Bruce steps in to ensure that John still experiences the world beyond his unit. With an electric wheelchair stowed in Bruce’s car, they embark on adventures through Taree, Hallidays Point, and Old Bar, embracing the world outside the village.
“This helps me open my mind to the world outside my unit and village, keeping my mind active. I have occasionally noticed issues around the area that can limit or negatively impact someone with a disability and have reported these to the council. It lifts my spirits to be a driver in these actions again.”
John’s newfound sense of purpose as an advocate lifts his spirits and reignites his passion as an active driver for change once more.
Reclaiming a Life of Connection
Since Bruce and Alana entered his life, John’s world has transformed. The sense of isolation has given way to connection, and the loneliness and sadness that once plagued him have been replaced by purpose and companionship. Through technology, John now communicates directly with the world via electronic media. His Smart TV and apps like YouTube provide entertainment beyond just the news, enriching his life in countless ways.
“Before Bruce and Alana’s involvement, I felt closed in, out of sight, and out of mind. I had very little communication with the outside world, and although Joy, my carer, worked hard to improve my life, I needed more. Now I can contribute again and no longer endure the loneliness and sadness I was feeling.“
A Brighter Future
With his life now content and fulfilling, John has modest goals for the future. He plans to continue enjoying the company of his volunteers, carer, and the few friends he has. His journey from solitude to connection stands as a testament to the transformative power of friendship and community.
Joining In Great Company
Reflecting on his journey, John offers a heartfelt recommendation to anyone experiencing loneliness. He praises the benefits of the program, emphasizing how the simple act of having a friend to chat with can significantly improve one’s quality of life.
“Had my carer Joy not been in touch with the In Great Company team, I would never have met Bruce and Alana. They have turned my world around, and there is something to live for.
I recommend the program to anyone feeling the slightest bit lonely, as the simplest thing of having a friend to chat to will make such a significant improvement in their life.”
John’s story reminds us all that, in the darkest of times, a little companionship can light the way to a brighter, more fulfilling future.