When I retired from paid employment I felt that I needed to look for something else, as I did not want to become stagnant. I joined a walking club and we did some beautiful walks round Rotorua and beyond. I also did a massage course, which was a real morale booster for me. Over the years I have had so much pleasure doing massages as well as meeting amazing people through my work as a volunteer.
Some of the children could not sit up so we supported them while they lay on their backs on the horse. In time, some children were gradually able to sit up with a support person one each side to help them keep a balance while another walker was leading the horse. With this on-going support, these beautiful young people were gradually getting more confidence within themselves and the smiles on their faces were a delight to behold.
For the last twenty years I have been a volunteer with a hospice. To start with I was doing massages with patients and carers. Over the years, I have met many people at the hospice, all of them hurting in one way or another. Some were still in total shock as they did not know that they had a health problem until they went for a check-up with their doctor and then were admitted to a hospice palliative care unit not long after. Sometimes patients came in for a short time to give their carers a break.
The palliative care nurses and doctors were all so caring and supportive in every way and there was much laughter and tears shared with each and every one of us. So many people did not know about the hospice until they needed the support offered there. At times, many people dreaded going out there as they did not know what to expect. Once there, they found that it is quite different from being in a hospital. Families and friends were always made welcome. In some cases, the carers were able to stay 24/7 when the patient had not long in this life. These days with cancer on the rise, people are now more aware of this support.
After some time, a hospice second-hand shop opened up and I started working there as well as continuing to do massages. The people whom I work with in the shop are great fun and customers love coming, as everyone is so bright and happy. In time, I gave up doing the massaging and continued with the shop.
The goods that are donated are so appreciated. A few years ago, a lady brought in four men’s suits and said that they were very good quality. They had a suit cover over them, which was as old as the suits. When I opened up the first one there was a mouse nest in there! Gosh we had a laugh; at least the mouse was gone. All of them were extremely moth eaten. Yes, at one time they had been very expensive suits.
At times, we can get some very valuable items which means we do not know what price to put on them, so the manager will go online to get some advice. Sometimes the shop is used as a rubbish tip as the items donated are just not saleable in any way. When we get clothes that are washed and ironed and placed in a box for us that is a real bonus. Mostly clothes are just put into a bag. If they are of good value and need washing I will often take them home to wash and sometimes to mend. I used to love washing wedding frocks but these days they are just too heavy for me to wash and iron. The ones that did not wash well were the silk dresses – with the perspiration under the arms, which had been like that for years – they fell into holes when washed.
This morning at work I was chatting with our volunteer coordinator and I remembered when years ago I went out to the furniture department and there was quite a big-built lady stretched out on the sofa snoring away, quite oblivious of any one around her. I felt to go and put a price on her!
Sometimes people will want a new pair of shoes. They find something that fits and leave their well-worn ones in their place and walk out of the shop. Other times we have people try on clothes in the fitting room, take the price labels off and go out of the shop wearing them. We do not know that they have done that until we go into the fitting room and find the labels tucked in a corner.
Now we have five shops in and around different areas of Tauranga.
For many years, I used to work most days and loved it. These days I only go in for one morning a week. I still bring washing home at times and I never know what I might find on my doorstep, as the residents in my complex will give me goods surplus to their requirements, to take into the shop.
Over the years, I have met many beautiful people from all walks of life and I have learned so much about people while being a volunteer. I will continue to volunteer for as long as I can as I enjoy the people with whom I work and I enjoy meeting the customers, and we have so much fun!
Dorothy C., New Zealand
You can listen to Dorothy tell her story in the audio interview with Gayle Cue below