Why I volunteer at St John’s Care?
I volunteered because, as a retiree, I was looking for something useful to do that might help other people. And I’ve found St John’s Care really is the place to do it. The interesting thing is that St John’s Care is the focus for three different streams of society – those in need, those who help them and those who support the helpers.
Even though I knew there was a large group of people in Canberra who missed out on a lot, my consciousness generally equated them with those figures on the footpath hunched over a cardboard sign. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The people who come to St John’s Care are you and me, but you and me after some disaster has hit - illness, job loss, relationship breakdown, just even general exhaustion. Often, they are doing more or less okay until the car breaks down, the electricity bill and car rego and school shoes all need to be paid for at once or there’s a sudden chemist’s bill. Straws and camel’s backs come to mind.
The over-riding impression from all of the clients I have met at St John’s Care is that they still have courage. At one end they have the courage to come and seek assistance, at the other end they’re going to stick at it until it gets better. I remember one client who with two children aboard had driven back from North Queensland virtually non-stop and here at home the cupboard was bare. Just enough for a couple of days and we’ll be right, she said.
The second group is volunteers. Basic description: practical, non-judgmental, it’s a bit like I imagine a hippy commune, or a kibbutz must be – everyone pitches in and does what has to be done without anyone in charge. If anyone sees the rack is out of potatoes, they get some more; they just do it. If the packs of four eggs have run low, carve up some containers, put the eggs in, stick them in the fridge; they just do it.
Someone comes to the door for assistance someone will welcome them without any need for a roster or turn-taking; they just do it. And they do it with respect for the dignity of the client. There are very busy times, but I’ve never seen anyone flag. And as for wanting praise or reward? Never.
And finally, the people behind the volunteers. It’s uplifting to discover how many there are. Other parishes drop in collections of tinned goods, ladies drop in with ready-made, frozen meals, ordinary people drop in a few tins and some cereal, spring-cleaners drop in with clothes.
On one memorable day a company ute pulled up and the men aboard told us they had some donations. They had seen some publicity about St John’s Care and had asked the workers if they’d like to help. Many of them had been recipients of help in the past. The tray of the ute was packed with bags of groceries.
Then there’s OzHarvest, many of whom are also volunteers. They turn up regularly with goods from yet another level of supporter the major supermarkets. Everything from fresh vegetables to brand new undies. And, of course, St John’s Care’s own professional staff who keep it all running and handle the more complex issues clients may have.
I consider it a privilege to work with all three groups. All the time I spend at St John’s Care is a rewarding pleasure and an insight into a whole new world of care.
(Photo: Neil is seen here on the left with other volunteers and Jason our Programs Manager)
Wish List: Dried lentils, vegetable stock and honey.