Meander Valley Gazette

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Volunteers are worth their weight in gold

FeatureJoanne EisemannComment

MAY 2018 | Cody Handley

NATIONAL VOLUNTEER Week is an annual nationwide celebration of the generosity of volunteers which will take place from 21st May this year.

Volunteering Australia announced this year’s theme will be Give a little. Change a lot.

The Gazette spoke to three local volunteers about their experiences and why they do what they do.

Roy Axeleson

Roy has spent the last 22 years as a driver and administrator of the Deloraine Community Car.

Roy began driving in 1996, took over as coordinator in 2002 and only passed on the reins to his daughter Anne last month.

“In all that time they didn’t even give me long service leave!,” Roy jokes.

Roy’s background in the police force instilled in him a sense of community service and he maintained this in his retirement. When the day came that he was no longer working, Roy had the stark realisation that he needed something to fill in his time. “We all have to have something to do, a reason to get out of bed in the morning,” he said. ”Volunteering kept me in touch with the community.”

Roy sees the community car as a way for elderly people to live life on their own terms rather than relying on family who often have to work. “We have an aging community who need medical services but aren’t being looked after by the current bus service. Elderly people often don’t have transport but they still need to get to places.”

“These people see the community car as a means of establishing their own independence that otherwise they wouldn’t have,” he said.

Sheila Stevenson

Sheila is a veteran volunteer who had her first volunteer role 52 years ago with the Red Cross.

“I just gravitated to it,” she said. “It was a way to get to know the community, to get involved and help.”

Sheila is currently the President of the Carrick Community Committee and the curator of the Overload Exhibition which promotes awareness for Hemochromatosis.

Hemochromatosis is a condition where the body cannot offload excess iron levels. It affects 1 in 200 people, of which Sheila is one. The only ‘medicine’ is to donate blood, which Sheila does once every 3 months.

When she was diagnosed, she realised there was very little awareness about the condition. The Overload Exhibition seeks to remedy this by raising money for the illness while giving exposure to local artists.

Sheila said Overload has been the most influential volunteering experience in her life. “Being able to take the story out there after being diagnosed myself, I feel like I am able to do something really worthwhile,” she said.

When asked what her advice to anyone considering volunteering would be she said, “Australia runs on volunteers. It doesn’t matter how much or how little you do. Just get out there and help.”

The Overload exhibiiton will begin on the 8th of June.

Jake Pederson

Jake spent 3 months volunteering at the Great Western Tiers Visitor Centre in Deloraine.

Being just 22, like many other young people, Jake was having a rough time finding employment. As part of his requirements, he had to drop off 20 resumes per month.

One day he took a punt and dropped one into the Visitor Centre. “I took a resume in, not hoping for much, but they said there was a volunteer position going and asked if I could start tomorrow,” he said.

The position involved desk duties, serving customers and restocking brochures.

“It allowed me to regain my confidence after being out of the workforce for a while. It gave me a good foundation, particularly on the social side, and made me feel of benefit to the community.”

“I learned heaps about the area and it was good to be there to give tourists their bearings.”

Jake is interested in bushwalking and has a good knowledge of tracks in the area which he said was handy to have for the role. He also plays drums for local steampunk band 5 or 7 which takes inspiration from Tasmania’s convict past.

Jake now has a job at Ashgrove Farm working on the production line and in the cutting room.

Photo | Mike Moores, Cody handley