Thank you Penelope and all our incredible volunteers

May 10, 2022

Penelope Kerr’s volunteering journey began over 16 years ago when her father was living in a nursing home in Canberra. “During my visits I’d notice the names of Dad’s visitors in the sign-in book. The difference these people made in his life was so clear.” Months later when Penelope noticed an ad for CatholicCare’s Community Visitors Scheme in her parish bulletin it just seemed like the right thing to do. Penelope hoped that by volunteering her time she could give back what her Dad received.

Penelope is a volunteer in our Community Visitors Scheme. They visit people in aged care homes across the Northern Beaches. In most cases, the residents are lonely and have very few family members or friends living nearby. Volunteers offer friendship and conversation.

Over the 16 years Penelope has been matched with six people, each of whom has widened her horizons and enriched her life in unique ways.

“The lady I am matched with now has both children and all her grandchildren living overseas. Obviously COVID-19 has made it near impossible for her to see her children. She is blind from glaucoma and really misses reading. We usually spend the first 15 minutes of each visit chatting and then I read to her. After ANZAC Day she was fascinated by John Monash, so I went home and found some Wikipedia articles about him to read to her. She is also very interested in England and the Royal family so I will often read books and magazines about English houses, churches, villages, and the royals. She chooses what we read, and I never know what it will be next week!”

Penelope encourages anyone who is considering volunteering to look at their skills and capabilities. With her background during her working career, talking to people came naturally to Penelope. “Some people,” she says, “may be able to use their skills in other areas like helping with computers  or gardening. Look at the need, look at your skills and go from there!”

The COVID-19 pandemic was a particularly difficult time during Penelope’s volunteering journey as she saw it affect the wellbeing of aged care residents. During this period, her companionship was more important than ever, even if at times contact was limited to phone calls and snack deliveries. Penelope recalls Christmas Day last year when she was her companion’s only visitor. “The previous Christmas she had no one.” Penelope says that at the end of the day, “it’s about providing a link for someone with the outside world.”

This year, National Volunteers Week will run from 16 – 22 May. The NSW State of Volunteering Report (2021) revealed that in 2020, nearly 4.9 million residents of NSW gave their time as a volunteer. Volunteers contributed over 1.5 billion hours in 2020, with individuals volunteering for an average of 5.6 hours each week.

Volunteering has numerous benefits on our health and happiness, with “givers” being more than 42% more likely than non-givers to say they were “very happy.”

So, what are you waiting for? During National Volunteer’s Week, take some time to reflect on your skills, your areas of interest and your community’s needs. Then take the leap! At CatholicCare, we have two programs that are heavily reliant on volunteers – the Community Visitors Scheme and Mary Mac’s Place. We would love to talk to you about commencing your volunteering journey.

For Penelope, she sees herself as being somewhat of “a missing daughter,” a role that she treasures and doesn’t take lightly. “At the end of the day,” Penelope says, “It is my Christian duty to help people, and this is the most straightforward way of doing it. In our world if you can make a little difference to the life of someone else, it is a blessing.”

Contact us on 1800 324 924 to find out more about rewarding volunteering opportunities within CatholicCare.


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