As a relative newcomer to beautiful Kiama, you could forgive Fred Hollis if he just wanted to put his feet up and enjoy retirement with his wife, family and young grandchildren.
But even after 40 years working in human resources, Fred wasn’t ready to call it quits. No sooner had he settled in the area, than he started volunteering with Kiama’s Blue Haven as a bus driver.
“I had just retired and thought that it might get me out of my comfort zone and also give something back to the community. It certainly has been a great experience and is one I’d recommend to anyone,” Fred said.
Fred was no stranger to Kiama, though, as the family had enjoyed holidays in the area for about 20 years.
“We loved the area, and we were lucky enough to find a great home overlooking Easts Beach. We love the Kiama lifestyle; everyone is relaxed and happy to say hello. It’s a great place to live!
“I volunteer one day a week for Blue Haven, driving one of the four Blue Haven buses. I’ve done about 140 of these trips over the three and a half years I’ve been volunteering and find it very interesting and rewarding. I typically drive clients (seniors, people living with a disability, and those without access to transport) to medical appointments in Wollongong and around the local Kiama area.”
Fred and his fellow Blue Haven volunteers are among the millions of everyday Aussies who provide vital support to their communities by volunteering in hundreds of roles.
Their contributions will be celebrated following National Volunteer Week from 15-21 May, which this year has the theme ‘The Change Makers’.
As well as honouring current volunteers and increasing awareness of their vital roles in our lives, the week also encourages others to explore volunteering options and step forward to help.
Kiama Council had planned to hold a Volunteer Expo at Kiama Farmers Market in Coronation Park on Wednesday 17 May, however due to forecast poor weather, the event will now be held on Wednesday 24 May from 2 pm to 4 pm at the same venue. The aim of the event is to help people find out more about volunteering. More than 30 local volunteer organisations will be taking part.
Wollongong Council is also holding a free Volunteering Expo on Wednesday 17 May at Wollongong Town Hall, from 9.30 am until 2 pm.
According to Volunteering Australia, 56.7 per cent of Australians volunteer either formally or informally. However, with volunteering on the decline in general, 83 per cent of volunteer organisations say they’re keen for more people to put their hand up for this vital and rewarding work.
Deb Reynolds has been a volunteer at David Berry Hospital’s palliative care unit Karinya for about six years. She spends time on the ward as well as doing bereavement companioning – connecting with people who are grieving.
“Listening to people sharing stories about their life is really the most amazing thing – it’s hard to define,” she said. “It is a privilege and an honour to be with people at the end of their lives.
“Giving back is the most valuable thing you can do – until you do it, you just can’t appreciate what you get in return.’’
The Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District is shining a light this week on the incredible people like Deb who volunteer within its palliative care services.
Palliative care volunteers provide a range of support to help patients, their carers and families in the district. This can involve hospital or home-based patient and carer support, assistance and respite.
Illawarra volunteer coordinator Cynzia Dei-Cont said volunteers were a diverse group with varied skills, life and work experiences and backgrounds, who were inspired to make a meaningful difference and meet new people.
“What all our palliative care volunteers have in common is their dedication, empathy and compassion – all of which are essential to the role,” Cynzia said.
“Palliative care volunteering enables people to contribute to the emotional wellbeing of patients and their families at one of the most significant times of life.’’
Community volunteer and retiree Neville Bryce has only been volunteering since March, but said he was already finding the role incredibly rewarding and had high praise for the training he received.
“Being involved with people in terms of grief and bereavement, being able to connect with people at that time, is very humbling and honourable,’’ he said.
“I am really impressed with the quality of training the local health district provided. We heard from a range of genuine experts and the palliative care team. I felt well prepared and fully supported.’’
National Volunteer Week takes place from 15-21 May. Find out more about the events taking place around the country on its website.
-Region Illawarra, 17 May 2023
18th May 2023