By Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

"Stronger Together" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. Today Tanya looks at the incredible efforts made by our carers and volunteers.

Last week was National Carers Week, and in honour of the millions of carers around Australia I would like to this week touch on the incredible service of our local carers and volunteers who contribute to our community every day.

Carers are people who support friends, families and loved ones achieve their day-to-day needs. Normally when someone who might be aged, have a disability, an illness or a mental health condition needs care, it is provided by someone they know and trust. Sometimes people don’t even know they might be classed as a “carer”. People who care for their parents, partners, siblings or children can think their role of providing care is one simply of moral obligation. However, there is carer funding available for those who are eligible. It’s important our carers and volunteers are not only looking after their loved ones, but themselves as well, and there are supports available for that.

The selfless act of caring and volunteering makes a real difference in the lives of not only the recipients, but to service providers as well. Research has shown the act of giving provides a great sense of value and fulfilment to the volunteer too.

Volunteer with IMPACT

Our Community Visitors Scheme has been operating out of IMPACT Community Services since 1992, and for 28 years we’ve been connecting lonely people with volunteers with great success. However, like many face-to-face services, our CVS program has been hit hard by the restrictions implemented to manage COVID-19 effectively.

It is a sad fact that many of the people our volunteers visit are alone and lonely in aged care facilities. Many don’t have family or friends in the area, and do not get external visitors other than those established through the CVS program. We operate not only in Bundaberg but Childers, Gin Gin, Monto and Gayndah, and across the board we’re seeing volunteer numbers drop significantly as a result of Coronavirus restrictions.

Mental health and wellness has been a battle for many people throughout this pandemic, and our elderly are not excluded from that. Many of our volunteers find themselves falling within in the “at-risk” category and, with the addition of tight visiting limitations, very few visitors are now able to meet with someone to brighten their day.

We are working to overcome this hurdle by connecting digitally. Our CVS program has sourced electronic tablets to assist in this space and facilitate a virtual meeting. We are encouraging anybody who has a spare hour each week, or even fortnight, to connect with a lonely person in aged care. It really makes the world of difference.

Roy volunteered for 28 years - find out why

According to Volunteering Australia, the top reasons why people volunteer are to help others, for personal satisfaction, to do something worthwhile, to gain social contact themselves, and to be active. Volunteers also provide an economic benefit, with an estimated $14 billion of unpaid labour served each year. It’s safe to say not only Bundaberg but the entire country come to a grinding halt if it wasn’t for the commendable gift of time our volunteers give. Let’s give thanks to their efforts and encourage others to take up the amazing act of volunteering and caring for our treasured senior citizens.

Of course, as restrictions begin to ease in this space, we are facilitating face-to-face visits. If you’d like to get involved, either virtually or in person, you can contact our CVS Coordinator, Heather Hinsbey, on 0448 035 891 or 4153 4233.