When I first wanted to be a volunteer, I thought it was for the usual reasons: time to give something back, my time to contribute… something we hear all the time.
I had become a bit jaded and believed it was impossible to change situations no matter how hard I protested or wrote letters or ranted… Bit fruitless even trying because the big guys always win.
Volunteering has changed me, it has enriched my life, and it’s educated me.
As volunteers, we are thanked for helping, yet in reality, I have got so much more out of my being at Community Northern Beaches than I have given.
I am surrounded by gentle individuals who deeply care about anyone who passes through our doors. They are professional and unselfish and teach me to be part of a group that can make a difference. I love to see them huddled in a group, sharing ideas and talking quietly about how to best help someone.
The ‘clients’ are my favourites. It’s when I smile and laugh the most. It’s a time to chat and share over a coffee and something to eat. I knew nothing about sports, but I do now… You get to know which people want to interact and those who just want to sit and be quiet. It’s really great when someone starts to relax with you and talks even just a little. Interest in each other is mutual, and over time, trust begins to develop.
I’ve experienced so much joy volunteering, whether it’s monumental when someone has permanent living arrangements found for them or something as simple as a pair of shoes fitting. It’s big smiles all around, celebration, and then let’s add some socks to the shoes and blankets for the new bed.
When someone blows you a kiss or winks at you as they leave, it’s special, there is warmth and smiles.
There are sad days and heavy days when my heart breaks, and I want to make it all stop. However, I am surrounded by caring people who aim to make someone else’s life a little easier. These are the days you practice your listening skills, remember how many sugars they have in their coffee, and be present.
Being a volunteer is a great leveller; it’s a reminder of life’s frailties, it’s a reminder that we are all different but essentially the same, and it’s a great reminder of how many good and kind people are around.
Volunteering at Community Northern Beaches has taught me the staff are not ‘us’ and the clients are not ‘them‘, and the drop-in centre is not our place for clients to visit, but it’s a place for all of us to feel at home and cared about and valued. It’s a kind place.