Freo’s volunteers ‘changing communities and changing lives’
The City of Fremantle is celebrating the generous contributions made by volunteers in the community and sharing their stories during National Volunteer Week, held from 18–24 May 2020.
This year’s theme “Changing Communities. Changing Lives” acknowledges the profound impact volunteers leave on their community. Especially during these uncertain times, our volunteers play an even more important role in creating a strong, resilient and connected community.
We spoke to Wanjoo Welcome Lounge volunteer Irene Borland about her valuable role in the over 55s community and how she’s been helping others during the COVID-19 crisis.
How would you describe your volunteering role, and what do you enjoy most?
The Wanjoo Welcome Lounge is a place for over 55s in the Fremantle Library to pop in for a free cup of coffee and a chat. I see my role in the lounge as a community connector. My job is to brighten someone’s day by welcoming them into the space, listening and caring for people and building relationships with them.
I enjoy connecting with people. I am a caring person by nature and enjoy the many ways I can lend a hand or an ear in this space. I had some really good feedback from a man a few years ago. He popped into the Wanjoo Lounge and I thought he looked familiar. He told me he was working again at Fremantle Hospital, and just wanted to thank us for helping him through a really difficult time in his life. Graham (another volunteer) had got him on a computer and helped with technology and I supported him by being kind and understanding. I didn’t know at the time that he was going through something and how important we were in helping him get back into the workforce.
How are you directing your caring efforts during this downtime?
I immediately reached out to my neighbours and close friends to see if I could help them in anyway. I found that it was really difficult getting people to accept help, even when I insisted that it wasn’t a bother to pick up a few extra bits, cook a meal or take them somewhere. I have been helping a regular Wanjoo visitor for some time and have directed my care to assisting him throughout this. I took him for a haircut and shave recently and everyone said he looked like a movie star which must have made him feel great. I help him out with food and clothes shopping and however I can, but I have to make sure I don’t over stretch myself.
What are you looking forward to about your volunteer program beginning again?
Wanjoo Lounge volunteers and visitors have been bumping into each other around the square, near the clock tower but it’s not the same. We are all looking forward to the library re-opening so we can all get back together again.
Learn more about the Wanjoo Welcome Lounge by visiting fremantle.wa.gov.au/wanjoo.