Volunteering as a gardener with Sydney Community Services has been “a lifesaver”, says new gardening team member, Helen Kottler.

“It’s good for me to focus on other people’s concerns. I call gardening ‘weed therapy’!  To be digging in a garden, cutting things back, tidying up and doing just what’s in front of you … is very therapeutic.”

Helen came to volunteering after her husband went into care in St Anne’s, Hunters Hill, with dementia. Initially she visited him twice a day and only later realised how tiring it was and the need to find another positive focus.

“It’s very satisfying to come to a garden that needs work and make it tidier so that the person who’s living there feels happy and comfortable  with it –  because it’s cared for like nearby gardens,” she says.

Helen enjoys the camaraderie of the SCS garden team which she finds a happy, welcoming community. She also loves the gratitude and conversation with people whose gardens she tidies.

“I particularly like the contact with people whose gardens we work on. They’re so appreciative and some of them are in difficult situations so it’s nice to be able to help them and to spend time with them, hearing their stories.”

Now she fits three days a week in clients’ gardens into her already busy schedule. She visits her husband daily at St Anne’s nursing home in Hunters Hill, as well as visiting another lady in a nursing home. And she keeps tabs on her older family, too – especially her father, whom she accompanies sailing for days at a time –  because he’d otherwise risk sailing alone.