Cancer patient gives back as volunteer for TeleFriend program
A cancer battle was the catalyst for Miriam Gauci to begin her volunteer journey with non-profit organisation VMCH. During chemotherapy, Miriam was visited by a friendly pastoral care worker whose companionship she enjoyed.
“I thought, ‘I could do that’,” Miriam said. “I wanted to give back to the community and help people less fortunate than myself.”
From May 17-23, VMCH celebrates the National Volunteer Week (NVW) to honour the nation’s more than six million volunteers.
Miriam began volunteering at our St Bernadette’s Aged Care Residence in 2018 in a pastoral care role, chatting with residents each week. However, in 2019, a return of her cancer meant she could no longer visit the home.
Undeterred, Miriam signed up to volunteer with VMCH’s TeleFriend program, where volunteers make weekly phone calls to people supported by various VMCH services. Each week, Miriam calls Ellen, who cares for her husband full-time.
“I just listen to how she’s feeling and be supportive of her,” Miriam, 64, says. “Ellen said the other day, ‘I’ve never met you, but my husband and I love you like a daughter’, so that was nice.”
Despite her health issues and her role as a carer for her 96-year-old mother, Miriam’s motivation for volunteering never wavers.
“I could decide to sit here and mope and feel sorry for myself but I get more strength to get through my issues when I’m helping other people.”
Bron Summers, VMCH Volunteering Services and Opportunity Shops Senior Manager, said Miriam’s strength and compassion in helping others was extraordinary.
“Luckily for VMCH, we have so many wonderful people like Miriam who donate their time to brighten the lives of others,” Summer said.
“Whether through social visits to our aged care residents, helping out in our op shops or supporting people with disabilities with community activities, the dedication and kindness of our 500-plus volunteers continues to humble us. We thank them for everything they do not only during National Volunteer Week, but every day,” he said.