Volunteers recognised this week

ENCOURAGED TO VOLUNTEER: Mount Gambier/Berrin man Stan Thomson will continue to volunteer his time and encourages others to do the same. Picture: CHARLOTTE VARCOE

Charlotte Varcoe

VOLUNTEERS are in the spotlight this week with National Volunteer Week well underway.

This year’s National Volunteer Week theme ‘Something for Everyone’ recognises the diverse passions and talents everyone brings to the act of volunteering.

In Home Hospice Care volunteer Stan Thomson first began his journey of helping those near the end of their life about three years ago – something which has encouraged him to live each day to its best potential.

The not-for-profit organisation helps those nearing the end of their life who wish to pass peacefully in their own home.

Volunteers are allocated clients and often travel to their homes where they help respite the client’s carers.

Mr Thomson and his wife decided to volunteer with the hospice care organisation in order to make the most of their and their clients time.

“We are believers of making the most of your time and so this came up and we thought it would be a good idea,” Mr Thomson said.

“The idea of helping somebody who is there and does not have much time ahead of them but wants to spend it in their own home and just be there with them appealed to us so we gave it a go.”

He said the couple would have about three or four clients with the work “fulfilling”.

“The families are in need because that person would not ask you to come and sit with them while they die if they did not feel very strongly about it,” Mr Thomson said.

“Once a person is gone it can be quite empty there but you do check on the family afterwards and that is good because you have got a bond with that person which you did not have before.

“What you are facing too is the reality that the person you are talking to might actually look pretty healthy but the truth is they have a limited time and you have got to find a way of acknowledging the fact this person is dying but at the moment you are both living.”

He said he would try and “milk the most” of those moments with his clients whether it be days, months or years.

“You are very much guided by the person because they have asked you to come to them, not the other way around, they are the ones facing this and it takes two or three meetings before you start to bond with them and then you learn how bold you can be with the questions,” Mr Thomson said.

“Sometimes you do not mention death or dying and then once you gain the trust of the person it starts to creep into the conversation.

“Most of the time you do not respond, you just listen as they want to talk about what is happening to them because they cannot talk to their wife, children or husband – it is too intimate.”

Mr Thomson believed the clients welcomed the opportunity to speak with a stranger stating it becomes “therapeutic” for them.

“You have to give them the opportunity because it is a very personal thing for all of us, we are all going to face death one day and the way I want to do it would be different to others but you have to be guided by them,” he said.

“My perception on life has not changed through doing this, it has reinforced the need for me to make the most of my time as it is a challenge for anybody who is retired to think about what they are going to do now and to me it is important to keep busy and volunteering is great.”

As well as volunteering at In Home Hospice Care, Mr Thomson also volunteers TafeSA, helping refugees learn English.

“Teaching English at TafeSA is just as rewarding because you are seeing the other side of things,” he said.

“You are seeing people starting off their lives as these people come from very troubled backgrounds and we have opened our doors to them.”

Mr Thomson said many in the class came from refugee camps and were put on a plane before arriving in Mount Gambier/Berrin.

“The first thing they need to do is learn to speak English,” he said.

“We help the teachers and assist where necessary but again you get to know the person intimately which is good.

“We do not talk much about what has happened to them but you have to be conscious of the fact they have been through hell and a lot of them have not been to school yet so they are adults trying to learn English.”

Those wishing to volunteer at In Home Hospice Care are about to do so by contacting Sandi Elliot at manager@ihhcare.org.au.