Connecting with others is vital to wellbeing. It can increase feelings of happiness and belonging as well as starve off feelings of isolation and depression.
The Community Visitors Scheme, which pairs volunteers with older Australians, offers participants friendship and companionship they may not otherwise experience. Volunteer Sarah and Regis Sandringham resident Betty Wale instantly struck up a close friendship and continue to be close friends.
Sarah started volunteering during the COVID-19 lockdowns, where she first met Betty online for virtual catchups, meeting face-to-face nine months later. Sarah says, “It was very exciting when we finally got to meet. I think we were surprised at how easily we find things to talk about and how easily we get along.”
Sarah and Betty have formed a close bond and get together regularly for a cup of chai or to share travel stories. Their most treasured moment together was a recent seafood-themed Christmas.
“I asked Betty what she missed most. The key answer was obviously family, but also prawns, so I bought a whole bunch of prawns and a breadstick and some seafood sauce. We played Christmas carols and sat and had prawns and bread and exchanged presents. That was really special to have a little mini-Christmas together.”
Speaking of the volunteer program’s impact on her life, Sarah says, “It’s definitely brought me a new friend, and I learned a lot. I wouldn’t even call it volunteering; it’s sort of visiting a friend. If you are thinking about becoming a volunteer, 100% do it. It’s incredibly rewarding and very important.”
Betty echoes Sarah’s sentiments. When asked how she feels when Sarah visits, Betty says, “Oh, very happy. She’s made a big difference. Really has.”
To become a volunteer and make a difference in someone’s life, visit health.gov.au/community-visitors-scheme.