“It’s what I want to do.”
Theresa on volunteering
Rewarding reflection from a part – time university social work student who began work as a volunteer when she had finished a university placement at A Place to Belong.
Part-time university Social Work student Theresa Davis began her work as a volunteer when she had finished a university placement at A Place to Belong.
“I found at the end of the placement I wanted to keep going. I found the work that was happening there with people with complex health issues so special and rare.”
Later she spent half a day each week with one of the people whom the agency assists.
“Just spending time with her in her daily life is so important – having company. We are always walking around the area together – it’s good to be with her and know that some things are now possible for her as she knows someone is on her side. She doesn’t need my ‘help’ but sometimes she asks for it.”
As a volunteer, Theresa took part in team discussions and meetings along with staff, community allies and program participants.
“The team supports her and any decision-making that is made regarding her life, she is part of. The whole process is very inclusive and really supports her self-esteem. She says what she thinks and no decision is taken away from her.”
Theresa understood first-hand what an impact illness can have on one’s life having recovered from serious illness herself.
“It’s different for people with mental health issues and the way in which they are supported makes a difference to their capacity to stay well. They don’t want to end up back in hospital and with more personal support, they don’t get sick as often. It’s a fact of life and it’s good to help make that possible.”
Theresa had wanted to volunteer for a long time and started out volunteering at the New Farm Community garden, joining in with a group of local people.
“It’s a good niche for lots of people to volunteer.”
Her volunteering experiences were very positive.
“My circle of friends has exploded – that’s the most amazing thing. It’s what I want to do and for me it is part of life’s balance. I absolutely recommend volunteering to anyone and particularly if they are looking for a way to connect to their community. It’s a really good way. People will be very surprised at just how well it works. And people shouldn’t be concerned about mental health volunteering. People think odd, strange and challenging things will happen but they never do. It’s no stranger than spending a morning with a second cousin – it’s quite normal actually.”