When Rod Lewis needed help the kindness of volunteers pulled him through a dark period.
Looking to give back, Mr Lewis is now a volunteer himself with Helping Hands and is one of the group’s bus drivers.
The Helping Hands Program, auspiced by the Schizophrenia Fellowship NSW Inc, is a volunteer support service for people living and recovering from mental illness in the Shoalhaven area.
Mr Lewis volunteers two days a week and is a driver for the centre based program and the group’s community garden.
An inspiring quote from Mother Teresa was the final push he needed to take up volunteering.
“I read a quote from her on the internet and for some reason it really stuck with me,” he said.
“She said ‘if you want to help other people, start with those closest to home’ and I thought that’s what I’ll do.”
“She said ‘if you want to help other people, start with those closest to home’ and I thought that’s what I’ll do.”-Rod Lewis
Mr Lewis has known many of the people he drives around for years and enjoys being able to help them.
“I came across a lot of volunteers when I needed help and now I want to help others,” he said.
“They’re really thankful and it also makes me feel good so I get something out of it too.”
Helping Hands offers a range of volunteering opportunities from gardening, engagement in sporting activities, tennis tournaments, art activities, providing mentorship, cooking, meeting with individual clients to provide social support, driving, health promotion events, outings, maintenance tasks, fundraising, basic administrative duties such as filing and bookkeeping.
Educational events are held throughout the year to support volunteers who are interested in increasing their understanding of mental illness.
Individuals with a background of working in the mental health sector are also encouraged to get involved.
It provides an opportunity for people with a lived experience with mental illness to provide peer support to participants.
The centre based program and community garden is based in Nowra but links with clients may take place in other areas in the Shoalhaven.
Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer is encouraged to contact Sarah Reynolds, Helping Hands Coordinator on firstname.lastname@example.org or 4421 5942, Mondays to Thursdays from 9am to 5pm.