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Never too old (or young) to volunteer

Care Services
01 June 2017
  • Eight decades separate Betty and Neeru, but volunteering at IRT Kangara Waters unites them.
  • Betty is very modest about her volunteering and doesn’t really think it rates a mention.

  • Neeru, on the other hand, is very impressed with Betty’s efforts.

  • They are two of IRT’s 600-plus network of volunteers.
01 June 2017

The Good Life shines the light on the tremendous efforts of two of IRT's 600-plus volunteers.

“You feel you are doing something that’s useful and helping people."
Betty Gould

Betty Gould, 96, lives independently at IRT Kangara Waters in Belconnen and enjoys playing carpet bowls and a weekly game of cards with other residents.

Neeru Rajendra, 15, is a Year 10 student at Burgmann Anglican School in Gungahlin who loves doing boxing and yoga to keep fit and learns Indian traditional dance.

Eight decades separate the two; volunteering unites them.

Both volunteer in the Care Centre, a residential aged care facility, at IRT Kangara Waters.

Betty enjoys the distinction of being IRT Group’s oldest volunteer and Neeru is the youngest.

They prove that you are never too old – or too young – to volunteer.

Betty started volunteering for the RSPCA years ago, while living in Melbourne. Her husband John, a World War II veteran, had passed away and she felt isolated. She volunteered in the RSPCA’s shop in Frankston, mainly for the social interaction.

When she moved to IRT Kangara Waters seven years ago to be closer to family, a friend encouraged her to volunteer in the Care Centre and she’s been doing it ever since. Once a month she runs the Care Centre shop, which sells craft items made by residents.

“You feel you are doing something that’s useful and helping people,” Betty explains.

“I’m fortunate that I can move about without any problems, so I’m able to help out.”

Betty is very modest about her volunteering and doesn’t really think it rates a mention.

Neeru, on the other hand, is very impressed with Betty’s efforts.

“Wow. It’s really incredible. I think giving that little part of your day to help people, even at 96 when people expect you to be the one needing help, that’s pretty cool,” she says.

Neeru’s family volunteers together and has done since she was a young child. They’ve been involved in community tree planting and Clean Up Australia. Now they visit the Care Centre every second weekend, making social visits to the residents and helping out in whatever way they can.

“I enjoy talking to people and learning about their lives but also providing them with company because at the end of the day they are just everyday people looking for a bit of a chat. They get something out of it and I get something out of it. It’s really interesting,” she explains.

“These residents have done some extraordinary things. There are some incredible people here. Like Malcolm, he was an astrophysicist. And Pat, she was an opera singer and she’s met all these famous singers, people I’ve never heard of.”

Neeru believes the volunteering brings her family closer together, is helping her grow as a person, and will stand her in good stead for her future career.

“I think I’ve a lot of growing to do but I like that I challenge myself. Here we communicate to people, we talk to people, we engage. The thing is, with any career, you need to learn to do that.”

She admits visiting the Care Centre can be a little bit confronting at times.

“I meet residents who have dementia and serious health issues that a young person might not want to think about. But coming here really does help you move past what you see and help you really get to know people rather than what they physically look like or how able they are. They all have minds, and they all have something to say and great stories to tell.”

One of the residents Neeru loves visiting with her sister Abby is Doreen Malins.

“She’s such a beautiful person. She likes talking about birds and all those kinds of things,” Neeru says.

The feeling’s mutual.

“I really do enjoy the girls’ visits. There’s such a big age difference between us but they’re so spontaneous. They’re a credit to their parents and so easy to talk to,” Doreen says, as she lovingly pats Neeru’s hand.

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