For Krissy Lindsay volunteering for The Salvation Army Senior Friendship Programme has been a surprising and special experience.
I got to a stage in life where I found I had more free time and I wanted to do something to help people. I have always helped people and volunteered. I was a volunteer in the Bosnian War for three years, working for Bosnian Refugee Relief. Since I came back to New Zealand I have worked with special needs children and also been involved with the SPCA, and I’m presently working with children.
When I was looking for ways to help, The Salvation Army were always top of the lists—such admirable work they do throughout the community. I spoke to Senior Services Friendship Programme coordinator Lisa [Fe’ao] at Albany Bays Salvation Army about being involved with the programme because I felt it was somewhere I could make a difference.
Lisa paired me with two women who were on their own and in need of extra company and support. They were very different people, but I instantly got on well with both. One was a lady from a wealthy background, but she had no family and was lonely. I visited her every week, but she has since died.
The other was Ruby (not her real name), a woman in her 80s. She’d had a partner of 20 years, and when he passed she was lonely. She would go down to her doctors, make them cakes and sit in the waiting room all day for someone to talk to.
I’ve been visiting her every week for the past two-and-a-half years. Ruby is originally from Ireland and has no family here. These days, she has no one else in the world apart from me, so I take our friendship very seriously.
When I first started visiting Ruby she was living in her own home—I’d take her out for lunch or help with her shopping. I then helped her transition from her own home into a rest home.
The connection Ruby and I had was pretty much instant, so I really thank Lisa for her coordinating skills and putting us together. Ruby’s become a very dear friend. I pick her up and she comes back to my home. My children live overseas, so it’s nice for both of us.
When I was younger I never really had many old people around in my life, so it’s been a big learning curve, but it’s not just a one-way street, it’s definitely two way. I get back heaps from it. Ruby’s had a tough life and tells me fascinating stories sometimes about her life and living in Ireland. When I started I wasn’t prepared for how much I would get back from this.
Ruby’s been through lots of changes, but she has got that amazing Irish sense of humour and she’s always looking on the bright side. I take her chocolate when I visit her—she loves chocolate, and the first thing she does is share it round.
We always make a special outing on birthdays to celebrate. When I first met Ruby she was in a knitting group. For her birthday that year we put on a birthday party for her at home and her knitting group came.
We celebrate Christmas together as well. Ruby told me the first Christmas she was by herself she went next door to her neighbours and said, ‘Would it be alright if I brought my plate of food and ate it with you?’ And they refused her. When I heard that I said, ‘That’s not going to happen to you again!’
MAKE A DIFFERENCE | www.salvationarmy.org.nz/volunteers
by Krissy Lindsay (c) 'War Cry' magazine, 10 December 2016, pp11
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