A valued Alzheimers Day Programme Volunteer
John has been volunteering for Alzheimers Taranaki Hawera Day Programme for almost 4 years, his involvement started after his wife was diagnosed with dementia, he decided a good way to learn more about it was to volunteer for the Day Programme that she attended twice weekly. Here he has found the support from staff, other volunteers, and clients invaluable. This has given him a greater understanding of dementia and has helped reduce stress for him.
Alzheimers Taranaki run Day Programmes for people with dementia in both New Plymouth and Hawera. The day programme or “clubs” provide social and cognitive stimulation, entertainment, and activities for people in the early to moderate stages of dementia whilst also providing day respite for the care partners, carer and family / whanau.
John brings his love of woodwork to the Day Programme and enjoys making wind wands and walking sticks amongst other things with the clients, he says that he likes that the women love the woodwork also. As well as his woodwork he enjoys being the Day Programme handyman, as well as driving the van transporting clients to and from the Day Programme.
The Staff at the programme appreciate his input so much they have recommended him for this months Volunteer of the Month. They particularly appreciate the way he has connected with the men clients and his caring and jovial manner. He passionately listens and helps where he is able, he is good with communication passing on relevant information to staff when needed.
Alzheimers Taranaki is one of 19 regional branches throughout New Zealand and they aim to make a difference to the lives of people living with dementia, their carers, whānau and families; Alzheimers NZ and local Alzheimers organisations have adopted a ‘Dementia Friendly NZ’ as their mission. Most people with dementia live in our communities. They shop, work, eat out, catch the bus, go to the library, and do everything else we all enjoy doing.
Like most older volunteers John doesn’t volunteer for only one organisation, he also is a valued volunteer for Age Concern’s AVS - visiting clients and has been known to go the extra mile and help these folk get to medical appointments etc.
John does have other activities that he is interested in, and he and his wife Lovie enjoy spending time with their family who all live locally and special time with their three grandchildren as well as sporting and hobby interests. A hobby for John is making wooden toys for sale.
Recently the Day Programme Coordinator asked some of their volunteers why they volunteered – John’s response was “I have great satisfaction knowing my spare time is in some small was helping others”
Thank you, John, for all you are and all that you do for Alzheimers Taranaki.
Some interesting facts about Alzheimers and Dementia are that:
A valued Seasons for Growth Companion
We are all shaped by life’s experiences and have a skillset we each can share.
Judy’s journey with seasons for growth (SFG) began in 2017 when she saw an advert looking for volunteer companions that was placed in Waitara Alive looking for companions to facilitate the seasons for growth program (SFG). In her other life she was a primary school teacher for 40 amazing years. During that time, she identified that staff were always trying to give the children tools they could put into their backpack for living, be it maths, reading social skills etc. As a teacher the fact she couldn’t offer support to the children who were facing big challenges was a time of frustration and almost sorrow. Then when she discovered the seasons for growth program she was lucky enough to go the seasons training and realised that she could support teachers who felt the way she did as well as families and children in difficult times.
She is now hooked into the program and finds it rewarding to be involved. She says ”It is awesome while maintaining confidentiality to be working with a program that is structured to meet the needs of the children. It’s a privilege to be part of the children’s lives as they cope with loss and change. We see a positive powerful moment when children connect with peers in the group, and they learn and understand that others have had a similar experience we cannot go through life without going through some form of change”. The program helps build resilience, improves self-awareness, helps with regulating their emotions, improves self-esteem- all necessary tools in our backpack for life.
SFG has been in Taranaki for over 20 years and is offered in other parts of NZ as well as many parts of the world. It is a 9-week educational based program available to any child who has been through a significant change or loss. SFG in Taranaki is supported by the Bishop’s Action Foundation. Each volunteer companion attends a 2-day training, is equipped with a manual and relevant resources, is supported by a coordinator and companions are routinely police vetted. Companions work in pairs for the duration of the 9 weeks. Children can be referred by schools, parents, agencies, counsellors etc
“My life is so much richer and there are good friendships been formed while volunteering.”
Judy has a particular skill set that she can use in SFG. However, some of the companions she works with don’t have a teaching background, but their skills are so needed. They are exceptional companions because they come with life experiences and open caring hearts, wanting to give to others-make a difference today.
Judy works with Habitat for Humanity and she says “If I think of Habitat, very skilled builders etc give their skills to that organisation but they still welcome an unskilled enthusiastic worker too”
Life skills that we have all been shaped with, knowledge that we carry and can share on life’s journey
Judy’s experience has been with a variety of organisations. Other voluntary roles she is involved with include Habitat for Humanity, Knox Church activities including cooking, Playgroup, Cancer Support group, and Champions of Waitara, also she is loosely associated with Foodbank.
As well as all this she is a very proud grandmother and supports and is involved with her family in many ways.
Judy says “Lockdown showed me again how connection with others is a lifeline. Through SFG and other groups I’ve belonged to, I’ve connected with an amazing group of people. I’ve been inspired by both children and adults as they live life, I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, my life has been so enriched.”
Why volunteer? -call it what you will – “do to others as you would like to have done to you, pay it forward, -I’ve found SFG and other volunteering to be hugely rewarding and something I’m very thankful for. “ says Judy