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RIDBC Volunteers are life-changers

This week (18-24 May 2020), we are celebrating National Volunteer Week, celebrating ‘Changing communities. Changing lives’.
Volunteers support Next Sense students

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To say volunteers are the lifeblood of RIDBC is one thing, supporting it is another. For us, the proof is in the pudding.

In 2019 over 25,000 hours were given by individual and corporate volunteers, a 25% increase on the previous year.

Last year, we recognised 25 people who received RIDBC volunteer service and recognition awards including two people reaching 20 years’ service and six people reaching 15 years’ service.

But, there’s more.

18 RIDBC volunteers were nominated for a 2019 NSW Volunteer of the Year Award, which we recognised in an published article on the RIDBC website dedicated to volunteers in 2019.

And, from the 18 abovementioned, Ebonie Sanderson – Young Volunteer of the Year for Southern Sydney, and Sheliya van Buggenum – Adult Volunteer of the Year for Northern Rivers, won their regional categories.

Although it’s impossible to recognise all RIDBC volunteers, here are some that are changing communities and changing lives at RIDBC.

Meet Lionel

Lionel started volunteering with RIDBC 20 years ago but his affiliation with RIDBC at North Rocks spans much further. His daughter, Nicola, has vision impairment and late wife Pam was a regular RIDBC volunteer.

Lionel contributes to RIDBC in the Accessible Information Service (AIS) team as a copyholder, requiring high levels of concentration and attention to detail.

What’s a copyholder you ask?

A copyholder reads aloud the print version of a resource that is being produced in braille, for people who are blind or have low vision. As RIDBC Publications Officer, Tristan Clare said, “Not all people are suited to this kind of work, but Lionel is.” Team Manager, Sonali Marathe echoes those thoughts – “Lionel’s meticulous work ensure that the braille books we give to students adhere to the highest quality standards we set at RIDBC.”

As well as his excellent contribution as a copyholder, the RIDBC team praise Lionel’s qualities as a person most of all. “His optimism and attitude are a source of inspiration to everyone. Every Tuesday – rain, hail or shine, we welcome Lionel to the office,” Sonali said.

“Lionel is a hard worker and excellent company. He is one of the nicest men I’ve ever met, and I always learn something new when I talk to him,” Tristan said. And the feeling is mutual, “Working with Tristan is like working with my own daughter. She is wonderful,” Lionel said. He continues, “The team in that department is wonderful, always making us volunteers feel valued. They put on a special morning tea to celebrate our birthdays and I mean special!”

Lionel’s commitment to RIDBC is 20 years’ strong, and we are fortunate to call him a volunteer, and friend.

Meet Valerie

For the last 11 years Valerie has been a mainstay in the library at Taralye Blackburn. Whether it’s shelving, covering or helping children find their perfect book – Valerie is there to help. The local resident has a love of books and a love of reading – and sharing that joy with the children of Taralye means everything to her.

“Watching the children develop over the years, see them off to school and hearing about their lives years down the track just warms my heart,” Valerie said.

“Valerie has grown in her role over the years, she is reliable, committed and is a team player. She is quick to improve processes, share ideas and for that I value her opinions immensely,” Taralye Librarian, Julie Pearce said. “Our families show much appreciation, and I am pleased to share that with Valerie. I hope our relationship will continue for a long time!”

And we do too!

Meet Sudha

For Sudha, “giving is receiving”. She loves volunteering at RIDBC Alice Betteridge School (ABS) – working closely with the teachers and teacher’s aides to make a difference in the lives of the students. Sudha loves seeing the children achieve their potential and doing their best every day. “I have learnt so much from the children and made many friends during my time there,” Sudha shares.

Sudha is RIDBC’s longest serving volunteer with over 24 years’ service to ABS, something we are incredibly proud to share. Principal Julie said “Sudha brings joy, happiness, kindness, patience, positivity and care to our school, and we are so glad you found us. You light up the children’s faces every day.”

Sudha said she has seen a lot of change in her time at RIDBC but equally some things haven’t changed – including her dedication and commitment.

Now volunteering every week, Sudha talks of her “Very joyful experience that enriches her life, keeping her connected to society.”

And the cherry on top is that Sudha hopes to give a few more years yet, music to our ears.

Meet Zofia

They say, ‘time flies when you are having fun’. For Zofia, that fun started as a commitment to volunteer at the local RIDBC services in Floraville where her two grandsons attended pre-school. 20 years on Zofia is still a valued member of the team, volunteering once week and lending a hand wherever needed.

“Seeing the children develop during their time and head off to school has been amazing. Knowing they are getting the best start to their lives is important and my time volunteering has been nothing short of an absolute pleasure,” Zofia said.

The close-knit community is the heartbeat that has kept Zofia going as she gave praise to the teachers and families she has met over many years. They started as colleagues but continue as friends. And when people talk about Zofia, it’s not hard to see why.

“Zofia is one of our most valuable and reliable volunteers. She brings a smile to the faces of the children and staff alike,” said RIDBC Senior Teacher, Tracey Johnston. Zofia and husband Steve were a consistent and vital force, with others, behind the annual RIDBC Children’s Christmas Disco, an event the children loved”.

“It’s impossible to quantify how much Zofia’s done for RIDBC Hunter over the past 20 years. A selfless and loyal volunteer who has been such a wonderful asset to the RIDBC team,” said Tracey.

Thank you, Zofia.

Meet Marilyn

Each Friday for the previous 15 years Marilyn arrives at Taralye Blackburn bright and early to set up the Parent-Child Mother Goose Program with co-facilitator, Jenny. For many years, the Limb Family Foundation has generously supported the Parent-Child Mother Goose program.

The program promotes parent-child relationships through the fun of singing, stories, and nursery rhymes. The singing starts in the centre but quickly finds its way to the family home.

A former Teacher of the Deaf in Victoria, Marilyn’s passion for teaching extended to a university role preparing teachers for the classroom before starting her volunteering journey. Her contribution to Taralye started in 2005 as a Taralye Board member, serving as vice-chair and on numerous committees. Now her contribution is more hands-on, having a direct influence on families.

“The families I have met through Parent-Child Mother Goose are a constant reminder that the important things in life never change,” Marilyn said.

And despite a long and successful career in education, it’s Marilyn who’s still learning – “There is never a week that goes by that I don’t learn from Jenny’s skills, wisdom and generous nature,” she said.

“Volunteering is an opportunity for me to give back to the community that has given so much to me.”

And that she has. In spades.

To all RIDBC volunteers – thank you.

We understand that the COVID-19 crisis has brought with it many challenges. One of those challenges for us was having to temporarily cease the efforts of many volunteers. This was a difficult decision, but it needed to be made.

RIDBC Chief Executive, Chris Rehn said, “With optimism we look ahead to a time when our wonderful volunteers can return to RIDBC sites across the country. At that time, we will warmly welcome each and every one of you. For now, we hope you have a fantastic week and are taking care of yourselves – we appreciate the time and effort you dedicate and hope to see you soon.”

Are you interested in volunteering with RIDBC?

As a national organisation with an extensive network of sites, we are always on the lookout for excellent people willing to lend a hand.

Contact us today if you're interested in volunteering.

This news article was created prior to 22 March 2021 when NextSense was Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC).

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