Volunteering in Diane’s blood

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Volunteering in Diane’s blood

May 6, 2021

There has scarcely been a day since Diane O’Connor turned 18 that she has not volunteered for one organisation or another.

Brought up by parents with a strong social conscience, Diane was taught from an early age that a person could always help others with the gift of time.

“It is a lesson I have lived by ever since,” Diane said.

Currently volunteering at Leith Park, there is no typical day for Diane. She takes residents for appointments, works in the kiosk, and welcomes new residents. She is also support person to a 102-year-old Liscombe House resident. Most recently she has set up a small craft group for residents who find it difficult to get out socially.

“We do different types of needle work, knitting, and card making; it is a wonderful way of being involved and doing something we love at the same time,” she said.

Every second Tuesday of each month, Diane organises afternoon tea and transport to different places nearby. The group, now up to 35 people attending each month, is a firm favourite with Leith Park residents.

Before coming to Leith Park, she volunteered in the Lions’ Club for eight years, firstly with women being supported in family violence refuges and then with the survivors from the Black Saturday Bushfires in Victoria in 2009.

As with many volunteers, Diane does not give much away about the difference she makes to people. Nevertheless, she is proud of receiving a district governor’s award (medal) for her work with the Lions’ Club, and rightly so.

Her time with the refuges exposed her to the dark and sad world of family violence, where women and children came into a refuge often only with the clothes they were wearing and little else.

“My job was to try and source items needed by the new arrivals from clothing to personal items, books, toys, baby clothing, cots and prams,” Diane said.

Once a woman was allocated transitional housing, Diane stepped in again to find

bedding, furniture, washing machine and fridge, more clothing and other essential items to help start a new life,” she said.

Her bushfire volunteering was along similar lines: she was called on to find clothing, household goods, personal supplies for women, books and toys for children.

“I am always astounded by people’s generosity, and their willingness to step in when they can,” Diane said.

She was a night volunteer for eight years at The Peter Mac Hospital for patients who didn’t have visitors or family.

“I could empathise with them and their need for a listening ear. My mother and grandmother died from cancer and I had nobody to help or support me,” she said.

“My many years of volunteering for 18 different organisations has been very rewarding for me. I have learnt the importance of being able to listen well and provide the necessary support and help in various and different ways.

“Volunteering has opened many doors for me and introduced me to many people I would never have met otherwise. It is rich and rewarding,” Diane said.

 

 

Josephine Katite may be a long way from Kenya, where she was born and lived until 2005 but the experience of looking after her elderly grandparents is very much with her every day in her work at Liscombe House.

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