Article & photo by Kylie Wilson – Wangaratta Chronicle
SINCE her mid-teens, Galen College student Chloe Van Der Steeg has been a familiar sight in the halls of Illoura Residential Aged Care in Wangaratta.
She first became involved in volunteering at the facility at around 14, when she joined fellow Galen students in spending time with residents as part of the Mealtime Buddies program, which involves a range of tasks, from enjoying conversations to assisting with meals.
She has since returned to volunteering at Illoura through the school, only now it is part of a personal development component of her VCAL studies.
Her current volunteering includes interacting with residents and assisting them to participate in Ellora’s gentle exercise program, which includes such activities as short walks around the grounds of the home and chair-based exercises.
Chloe is aspiring to become a police officer, and said working with older people in the community helped broaden her life experience and give her empathy for others.
“It makes me feel better about myself,” she said.
She said that over the years, she had also learned a lot about life simply through conversations with the older people she has volunteered to help.
Illoura resident Sheila Clough said that she appreciated meeting with Galen College’s young people and loved the opportunity to interact with the younger generation.
“I think they’re very good,” she said of the volunteers.
Galen has fostered a productive partnership with Illoura over the years, and between 60-70 Galen students currently volunteer there, including a number of VCAL course students.
“We feel it is such a wonderful opportunity for our VCAL students here at Galen to experience and participate in volunteering within the Wangaratta Community,” said Galen Catholic College VCAL Coordinator, Beth Code.
“It enables students to develop self-confidence, and each of them takes away a sense of accomplishment.
“Watching students from the beginning of the experience to the end is certainly special as they realise they are making a meaningful contribution to the community.”
Lee O’Neill from Illoura said having the students at the home makes residents happy, provides them with additional social and emotional care and helps alleviate some of the pressure on the facility’s staff.
Northeast Health Wangaratta offers many different kinds of volunteer opportunities for those looking to spend time giving back to their community.
Anyone wishing to learn more about opportunities to volunteer at Northeast Health Wangaratta, including Illoura, should visit the Northeast Health website page – Volunteer at NHW