Volunteer Stories

COTA SA Volunteer Stories

Sue Pitman

sue pitmanMy volunteering adventure started with COTA SA in September 2016.

I grew up in Moonta and Adelaide and left for Canberra in 1981 work, travel and be part of significant national and international events and policy making in ways I had never expected. Most of my career was spent in the Department of Veterans' Affairs and Customs and Border Protection. As a senior executive, I was privileged to see from the inside how government works.

Along the way, I served as the volunteer President of a large not for profit community childcare association in the early 1990s. My daughters were both in full day care from an early age so I had a keen interest in keeping the association going through some ‘character-forming' times.

Wise elders - grandparents, teachers, colleagues and friends - have been my guides throughout my life. When I retired and moved back to Adelaide in 2013, I became a regular visitor and, gradually, carer to my late mother's elderly sister who lived alone. I was at her bedside in the Royal Adelaide Hospital when she passed away in early 2016. A series of events - losing her home of 35 years, falls injuries and a forced move into residential care - led us both into the world of My Aged Care. After she passed away I realised that the challenges she (and I) had faced were universal - older, frail, single women who had never been homeowners are very vulnerable.

COTA SA gives its volunteers a welcoming and supportive environment, as well as offering practical ways to contribute to the welfare and advancement of older people. I arrived just as Information Access was beginning and saw a clear connection to the help I had given my aunt when she was living independently: confidential, respectful support to work through issues, to boost self-confidence and identify other possible sources of help. It felt great to be able to help an individual feel more confident to access information on the issue of concern to them.

One of my key interests is keeping fit so it was great to find that COTA SA needed volunteers in its Strength for Life (SFL) program. We do annual checks of gyms and community centres where SFL sessions are running. I really enjoy meeting SFL participants and seeing how SFL helps their balance, strength and general wellbeing.

My father took up physical training a few years ago and really benefits from it. My older daughter is a qualified fitness instructor; my younger daughter is a registered nurse; my husband teaches tai chi as you can see health and fitness are very important in my family.

I have also volunteered as a Peer Educator with the COTA SA pilot program, Step Forward Together - Your Wellbeing, Your Plan. Peer education is a great way to learn about a subject and to meet people with diverse experiences across the state. I was touched by peoples generosity - they really appreciate the time and effort peer educators give.

Recently, I have joined a human research ethics committee as an individual community representative and am a member of a community advisory group for a large South Australian aged care provider.

In my remaining spare time, I am most relaxed out in the garden. After 32 years in chilly Canberra, it is a joy to finally own a thriving frangipani!

Jackie Bowness

jackie's storyWhen I retired in early 2014 from my role as Lifestyle Coordinator at an Aged Care Facility, I was completely unprepared for my role as a retiree.

Lost and aimless, I was informed of and invited to become, a volunteer with COTA SA, filling a need for Peer Educator availability in the Barossa Region where I live.

I have been a volunteer in various capacities for many years, including as secretary, entertainment and trade site convenor and show hall organiser for the Angaston - Agriculture, Horticulture and Floriculture - Annual Show Society - enjoying the challenge and participation.

The role of Peer Educator with COTA SA has also offered me the challenge and responsibility I find so satisfying.

I have received valuable training from COTA SA enabling me to present the 3 Moving Right Along sessions, and also Pills and Spills. The lessons learned have been interesting and useful in my own life too.

Assisting with the "Every Generation Festival" in the Barossa and a couple of "Ageing in Style Expos" has also been part of my role.

When volunteering for COTA SA, I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting and getting to know other volunteers and the staff, who have always been most helpful and supportive. My role takes me to a variety of venues in various towns where I have been welcomed and appreciated. I feel comfortable, presenting programme sessions to my peers, meeting lots of people and being busy.

Christine Christopoulos

christine christopoulosI started as a volunteer with COTA SA in October 2014 and am looking forward to a long association with the organisation.

Recently retired as a lawyer I happened to be in the right place at the right time when I was offered a volunteer position in the Advance Care Directives Program. The area is very familiar to me as I spent many years in legal practice advising people about similar protocols. I am one of a team of three Information Officers. We present seminars in the community and offer "one on one" information sessions about Advance Care Directives to COTA SA members.

I have just completed a training course for the COTA SA program "Planning Ahead: make your wishes known". The program brings together the three main areas of my former legal practice: Wills, Enduring Powers of Attorney and Advance Care Directives. In presenting the program we also provide information about Organ Donation and Consumer Directed Care.

I feel almost like I'm back in practice talking about the issues I used to deal with daily -- but without the stress!

I also volunteer at Calvary Hospital North Adelaide in the Biography Service as a member of a team of biographers who help patients in palliative care write their life stories.

And I have volunteered in other ways over the years.

As I am bringing skills I have acquired over many years of working as a lawyer to both COTA SA and Calvary Hospital I find my current volunteer positions very satisfying.

I think my desire to be a volunteer comes from two strong role models I had. My mother was always volunteering for organisations like the Royal Flying Doctor Service, even when she was working as an executive secretary, and then later for Domiciliary Care when she retired. Her sister, my Aunty Aud stopped her volunteer work in her local nursing home and church welfare centre only two years ago at age 85.

When I'm not volunteering I write, go to painting classes; workout at gym, go to yoga classes and walk or run depending on how I feel on the day.

Family is very important to me and my husband. We enjoy helping to look after our two granddaughters and our two step grandchildren; going to their basketball games and various concerts and performances, and having regular family get-togethers.