Many years ago I was humbled by the amount of people in Perth who replied to adverts for volunteers to assist with people living with HIV and AIDS. As December 1st draws near, (World AIDS Day),
I recall the all those men and women who gave of their time freely in order to help those who were very sick to remain in their homes until they died. Another service was for carers who required a break in order to gather their energy, emotions and thoughts, for the person they were caring for to come to Respite House and be cared for 24/7, by volunteers who worked rostered shifts ensuring there was a human face nearby to reassure, feed and tend to their every need.
This was an amazing time of my life, there were huge responses to advertisements placed three times a year for volunteers. The training programme was no walk in the park, as each volunteer opted to attend a six week training which culminated in a residential weekend workshop where volunteers were involved in role plays, experimented with touch (massage), learned of their judgements, acquired active listening skills and took an inner journey through several different meditative processes. This was not for the faint hearted and certainly sorted out those who stood the test of time from those who found the weekend too confronting.
This was a very humbling time of my life and those volunteers who were under my direction at the time, never ceased to amaze me with their open hearts, their unconditional love and their natural skills in reassuring the very sick, the dying and the bereaved.
Caring for others
The one thing HIV/AIDS did back in the early 90’s was show me the capacity of humans to help others. Sure, there was the down side, the fear mongering, those who thought gay men were the recipients of God’s wrath and others who blamed and vilified them because of the haemophiliacs who were caught up in the web of death, however it was these people who willingly gave of their time in order to make another’s life just that much more bearable, that really moved me.
Those amazing volunteers saw a fellow human who needed help and freely stepped up and did what they could to make the world a brighter place for the very sick and for the families struggling to come to terms with the terminal illness of their beloved son / daughter, brother/sister or partner.
In December 1994, this amazing team, I was involved with, collected the West Australia Volunteers of the Year Award. They certainly deserved it.
Ensuring life for newborns
Humans have an incredible ability to extend themselves in reaching out to assist others less able to meet their own needs. I was reminded of this recently when organising volunteers to help the local Zonta Club of Southern Gold Coast Tweed, to assemble Birthing Kits bound for Africa. These kits ensure that rural mothers have a clean birth. Each bag contains a plastic sheet upon which to give birth, 3 pieces of cord and a scalpel to cut the umbilical cord, 5 pieces of gauze to wipe the babies eyes, soap and a pair of gloves for the person attending the birth.
Over sixty men, women and children turned up on Sunday 11th November, to help out. It was a huge response to the press release and we were somewhat overwhelmed. Another beautiful part of this story is that eight new nurses who had recently graduated from Southern Cross University found a unique and perfect way to celebrate the upcoming birth of their friend’s baby. Instead of the usual frivolity and games at a baby shower, they came and helped out.
It was a perfect way to celebrate and it was not lost on me that the customary gesture of a small gift for the baby to the mother was exemplified by the gift of life to 1000 mothers and babies that none of them are ever likely to meet.
One can’t help but feel inspired and touched when we witness such altruistic acts of giving.