Volunteer Cheryl uncovers new skills
Cheryl volunteers at Northcott’s Life Skills program in Ballina, supporting customers and staff with activities as wide ranging as card making, name writing, gardening, flower arranging, jewellery making, making collages, cooking, as well as going on community outings -including group coffee trips, attending Zumba and even visiting a local high school to watch a musical.
We asked Cheryl what she enjoys most about her volunteering at Northcott Ballina and what she has gained from the experience.
Why did you want to be involved with volunteering at Northcott?
I was at Bunnings purchasing a sausage sandwich and saw a young adult that I know, she was with her carer. She recognized me and we had a chat. I spoke to her carer asking about volunteering and was impressed by her manner and attitude toward me and her customer.
What sort of things do you do as part of volunteering with Northcott?
We cook goodies for different celebrations and talk about why we have these special days. For example for St Patricks Day we make green and white swirl cake, with icing to match; at Easter we make chocolate bunnies; and on ANZAC Day we make ANZAC biscuits. This involves the customer setting the oven temperature, reading the recipe, measuring ingredients, mixing, pouring, and working out cooking time for us to check the oven. Then the customer offers the baked goodies, with manners, to others in the building.
We also get involved in card making, name writing, gardening, flower arranging, jewellery making, playing cards, playing musical instruments, making collages out of magazines, group coffee outings, Zumba and we also had a visit to the local high school musical. But one of my favourite things to do is to just sit and talk about life in general while having lunch.
What do you enjoy most about volunteering at Northcott Ballina?
I am appreciated by the staff and customers. Any ideas I have are well received by staff. They are happy to see me anytime and are flexible if I need to change days for personal reasons. Above all it is a very happy place with staff who always consider what will make other people happy.
What have you gained from your volunteering experience?
I have discovered special skills I didn’t know I had, like being able to communicate with not only speech but also hand gestures, eye contact, feeling, and body language. I can also read these signs when people are communicating back. Wants and needs are the same with everyone – people just communicate in different ways.
What drives your passion for supporting people with disability?
When I was a young child I remember a mother saying they couldn’t take their child to milk the cows because their child with disability would bite the cows. This affected me greatly as in those day people with disability were not talked about. In every person if you look you can find something that touches and opens your heart.
What would you say to someone else considering volunteering in this capacity?
Don’t hesitate; no matter your age or education you will receive more than you give. It increases self worth and I look forward to meeting feeling, compassionate people. Any amount of time is a great help to support people towards reaching their full potential.
Find out all about Ethan’s volunteering experience with Northcott.