Unprecedented run of natural disasters highlights benefits of volunteering

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Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 03/07/2022 - 8:24pm in


Coffs Harbour

Volunteer Eric Whalley with fellow members of the General Volunteers group at Coffs Harbour Health Campus.

AUSTRALIA is experiencing a crisis in volunteering due to an unprecedented run of natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen national volunteer numbers plummet by a third since 2020, Simone Plews from Coffs Harbour Health Campus told News Of The Area.

The Coffs Coast isn’t immune from the crisis, which is why hospital volunteers supporting Coffs Harbour Health Campus have embarked on a recruitment drive.

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This year’s National Volunteer Week theme of ‘Better Together’ is a message local volunteers want their community to hear and respond to.

Local volunteers also want their community to know that the reasons to volunteer aren’t solely focused on “doing something good” for others.

Volunteering has huge benefits to the volunteer, including meeting new people, making new friends, having fun, learning new skills, making great use of existing skills, and breaking old habits with new experiences.

Let’s hear from a couple of volunteers:

Eric Whalley – General Volunteer

At 51 years of age, Eric Whalley has been a member of the Coffs Harbour Health Campus General Volunteers for about six years.

He says he enjoys volunteering to fill in the time and do something useful to help others.

Working twice a week at the hospital’s enquiry desk, Eric says it is a great way to meet people.

“I enjoy giving people directions and escorting them to places in the new Clinical Services Building,” Eric said.

“It’s great to meet new people, get out and about, and help people in need.”

Gabby Meyer – member of Pink Ladies

Gabby Meyer has been a volunteer at Coffs Harbour Health Campus for about five years and can mostly be found in the Pink Ladies Gift Shop.

With a background in hospitality and managing guesthouses and hotels, Gabby enjoys giving back to her community through volunteering.

“I love talking to people, whether they are staff who come in regularly and you get to know their faces or patients and their visitors.

“It’s all positive – it’s about helping and giving back to the community and making a small difference in people’s lives.

“I’d encourage anyone who has ever thought about volunteering to give it a go.”

Mid North Coast Local Health District Corporate Relations Coordinator Sharon Fuller said hospital volunteers were part of the Health family on the Mid North Coast.

“We have our General Volunteers and the Pink Ladies at Coffs Harbour hospital, but we also have volunteering opportunities in mental health, palliative care, pastoral care and community support dogs,” Mrs Fuller said.

“I don’t think you could find a more diverse group of volunteers in any hospital in NSW, and that is a magnificent reflection on the Coffs Coast community.”

Mrs Fuller said economists often speak of the economic value of volunteering to Australia, which is estimated to be about $200 billion.

“It’s an impressive number – larger than revenue sources from mining, agriculture, and the retail sector according to a University of Adelaide study, but it’s not the sum total of the value of volunteering,” Mrs Fuller said.

“It’s impossible to place a value on the connections made between volunteers and visitors coming into our hospital – people who are worried about their dad with dementia, their wife with cancer or their child in need of surgery.

“Who can place a value on the relief someone feels when greeted by a volunteer who wants to help them, who shares a kind word or a compassionate smile?

“Who can place a value on the hours our volunteers spend with someone who is dying, listening to their stories about loved ones, past and present; or the events that shaped a person’s life?

“We know the Coffs Harbour Pink Ladies have donated more than $3 million worth of medical equipment and patient comfort items to our hospital, but $3 million is a long way short of the value of their donation if it is your loved one connected to one of their vital signs monitors or your grandchild in a Paediatric Emergency Department transformed from a white, scary, clinical place into an underwater wonderland thanks to a beautiful mural funded by the Pink Ladies.

“Who can place a value on the unconditional love shared between a Community Support Dog and a mental health patient?”

Mrs Fuller said the benefits of volunteering also embrace the volunteer.

“We know volunteering is important for those who put up their hand to participate; it creates a sense of achievement, reinforces purpose, and helps people to feel part of a community,” she said.

“There are the friendships that develop, the ability to use skills refined over the decades and that wonderful feeling of being involved in something that is bigger than any of us as individuals.

“At Coffs Harbour Health Campus, we are in awe of our volunteers, but we also know they need extra helping hands,” Mrs Fuller said.

“A lot of people have moved to the Coffs Coast in the past couple of years, and I can’t think of a better way to meet lovely people than by volunteering.

“So, whether you are a long-time resident or a new-comer, our volunteer groups would love to have you on board.”

Anyone wanting to find out more information about volunteering at Coffs Harbour Health Campus can contact Mrs Fuller via email at Sharon.Fuller1@health.nsw.gov.au.