Northeast Health Wangaratta has sent a public message of thanks to its volunteer cohort during National Volunteers Week.
The theme of National Volunteers Week is ‘The Changemakers’, demonstrating the power of volunteering to change the lives of volunteers and those that they help.
Lois Knox has been a volunteer of Northeast Health Wangaratta for nearly ten years and says the human factor and putting people first gives her purpose.
A former registered nurse and quality assessor, Lois said she could draw on her skills to give input to NHW’s consumer review process.
“I felt a little lost after retirement and didn’t want my brain to rust,” Lois said. “I wanted more in my life – to feel useful.”
“My volunteer journey started at NHW with an audit review of the volunteer service. We won an industry award for that and NHW made changes to their volunteer system that are still in practice today.”
Lois has volunteered at NHW in a variety of capacities over the years, including Meals on Wheels, concierge in the Community Care Centre, and as a consumer representative on various committees.
Lois said working at the Community Care Centre as concierge during the height of pandemic lockdowns was one of the most interesting times.
“People responded in really different ways and because it was a time of heightened stress for much of the community, providing assistance to people – whether it was the check-in process, or if they were frail or unsure of where to go – helped take some of the edge off their anxiety.”
“Volunteers provided an important buffer for staff, who were already dealing with additional work and pressure.”
As a member of the Research Committee, Route Cause Analysis team, and longstanding member of the Community Advisory Committee Lois said volunteering had opened her eyes to the different opportunities for people to contribute.
“As a consumer, I encourage the connection that I can make between NHW’s work and the community and bring a consumer focus and perspective.”
“NHW can’t have a consumer engagement process without that important community link,” Lois said.
“As a consumer representative, I can give a particular perspective, whether that’s as part of the Research Committee or the Route Cause Analysis team or a special project team.”
“I think the community would be really surprised to know the real depth of the work that NHW does, like amazing research projects, or the rigour of their reviews.”
“I am finding my time on the Research Committee really interesting. NHW is involved in some amazing research projects.”
For all the rewards and satisfaction, Lois said that self-care was important for volunteers.
“Volunteers help our community function, but you have to look after yourself and know your limits,” Lois said.
“Volunteers work hard, and sometimes it’s not easy, but it’s very fulfilling.”
On being asked about what being a Changemaker meant to her, Lois said that while it was satisfying to know that her input could deliver change, she had learned to change with the times herself.
“The pandemic has meant new processes and requirements and I’ve had to adapt to those changes.”
“Some of that change has delivered some real benefits, so I think it’s important to be open-minded.”
Lois’ advice to new volunteers was to bring enthusiasm, listening skills and not be afraid to speak up.
“It’s important to be yourself and whatever you decide to work at, do it with polish and passion.”
“We’re all different and there are so many opportunities out there to suit people’s interests and skills – you won’t have to look far to find a fit.”
“I would hope I’m making a difference, in small ways.”
To become a volunteer at NHW, please visit nhw.org.au/support/volunteer
National Volunteers Week runs from 15-21 May 2023.