There are many reasons people volunteer: for some it’s the connections, the desire to give back, or even as a new interest or hobby. Sally Barclay has been an amazing volunteer at Tōtara Hospice for well over 10 years now, and her reason for volunteering is – all of the above!
Sally has lived an incredible life; rich with interests, a career, and family – someone with a lot to offer, share, and give. She was one of New Zealand’s first computer programmers, and then went on to become a teacher after having a family – teaching the younger generation science, mathematics and computing for 40 years.
Now with her three children all ‘well and truly’ past-needing her care, and grandchildren in university, Sally found herself with time to do things she enjoyed, and wanted to donate that time to good causes and discovering new interests. Sally has volunteered in a multitude of roles and organisations over the years, but created a special connection with Tōtara Hospice after the passing of her husband, and credits Hospice and the counselling support provided, as really giving her the ability to, again, give back.
“My husband died of cancer, and Hospice were very good at caring for him and then also supporting me. After Jim had died, I went for the counselling service, and it was absolutely excellent, and from then on I could cope. It was probably because of that counselling that I felt I could give back,” Sally explains.
With a genuine interest in recording people’s lives, stories, and achievements, Sally began volunteering as a biographer. This is offered free to patients as an optional service, and some take it up so they have a record of their life to share with family and friends.
“It’s about getting to know who they are, and what experiences they have as a person. I’ve written about some interesting elderly gentlemen in their 90s; they just loved talking about their past, and I don’t think they’d told those tales. Sometimes a family member would be there and say, ‘gosh, we never heard that tale’, so it was lovely to hear the families’ reactions,” Sally says.
Sally knew she enjoyed this kind of work, having put together a historical book about where she grew up, so she had experience in writing and interviewing people to tell their stories. Sally describes needing to be able to: think on your feet, draw a story out of someone, and have a genuine interest in other people’s lives. In her time here, she has put together 20 – 30 biographies.
When the retail shops put out a desperate call for more volunteers, there was no biography work at the time, so Sally thought ‘that’s something I can do’, and for Sally it’s proven to be a really satisfying role. Sally explains there are two parts to working in the retail shops: the customer service side – helping customers and cash register work, or for those who want a quieter role, there is a huge job that needs to be done sorting and pricing all of the wonderful donations. At Tōtara Hospice, we want people to know our shops are about making it easy to find ‘just the good stuff’, so this behind-the-scenes role is very important, and one that Sally really enjoys doing! “What we are doing out there is putting stickers on the bargain bin stuff, hanging clothes up on coat hangers, and putting labels on clothes. I volunteer around three to four hours a week doing that. If these jobs don’t get done nothing would make it out the front. It’s nice to see families come in and get an armful of clothes for $15-20; now they have a family that’s warmly clothed,” Sally says. The thing Sally loves about working in the retail store is being given a task, the satisfaction of being able to tick it off and complete it, and see the direct outcome of what she’s achieved – customers walking away with things they need and great finds, and the money going back to Tōtara Hospice.
“Hospice is just something that I know should be here. Anybody can work in retail. And Hospice won’t be there unless people support it, and giving time if you have it, is what you can do. Financially, I can’t offer a lot, but time, I can.”