For Christine Nugent, volunteering is simply an extension of what she has always done.
“I grew up in country NSW, and although I didn’t know it, I’ve probably been volunteering all my life,” says Christine, who grew up in Walgett and now lives in Epping.
“If someone around Walgett needed help, everyone would pitch in; my family was always involved in service clubs such as Rotary, so it’s always been a part of my life.”
Christine gives her time to be a volunteer visitor with Sydney Community Services, having started with our ‘accompanied activities’ service where volunteers help people with shopping, appointments or other local business. In three years in this role, she has visited two ladies who, without family nearby, could have been at risk of isolation, and very much appreciated Christine’s visits and outings with her. She knew giving time one-on-one would suit her.
“Through my career as a radiographer, I got to know all sorts of people of all nationalities and backgrounds; I found elderly people had a good rapport with me and I with them,” she says.
Christine missed volunteering when she was working full-time; it was only a couple of months after retiring that she contacted Sydney Community Services (then known as Hunters Hill-Ryde Community Services). To start, she accompanied people to help them with shopping or appointments and later she transferred to the Community Visitors service and began visiting two ladies in their homes each fortnight. This free service boosts social connection and reduces isolation by matching friendly volunteers with people who’d like more social contact. Whenever possible, the program coordinator matches volunteer visitors with clients who have similar interests – such as music, gardening, exercise, cooking etc. Christine used to visit two ladies each fortnight and now has one client.
“We usually go out for coffee, buy something if she needs it, then we go back to her home and I stay to chat for about an hour. We talk a lot together and I might help her with something such as mail she might query or I listen and give my thoughts if she seems to want ideas.”
“It takes a while to get to know people, but the person you’re visiting gains your confidence and you gain theirs. They also gain confidence from knowing you and doing little outings together,” she says. “And if someone is a little isolated, then they really appreciate the company and the conversation so much.”
In these pandemic days, Christine is not visiting but phoning about every 10 days for a chat, and is confident that her friend is managing alright. Christine likes knowing her visits help her client stay in her home.
“If she had to move it’d be detrimental because she likes her home, she’s reasonably near things and can walk to shops or a bus. She’s happy there.”
SCS’ Community Visitors service is free and arranges visits to people in their home and in residential facilities. If you’d like to know more, please call our Home Visiting Coordinator for in-home visits or Residential Visits Coordinator about visiting people in aged care homes on 9427 6425. Or you can read about the Community Visitors service here.