Deb Thomas Bedford

My experience volunteering at Bedford

My name is Deb Thomas, I work for Beyond Bank and I would like to share the experience I had volunteering at Bedford recently.

When I arrived, it was very busy. The members were just arriving and settling in for the day, with some going straight to their places or corners of comfort to observe what was going on.

I was introduced to everyone and soon made friends with a guy who had low functioning Autism and was very fixated on repeating the same information, the whole day. We completed three jigsaw puzzles together, and we also hid a 30cm strip of blue ribbon, which he enjoyed looking for. He’d say “Where it is? Where it is?” And when he would find it he would giggle with laughter.

Placed on one of the walls, were goals and interests for their members. It didn’t take me long to discover who was interested in what. I learned that my new friend  loves steam trains. I talked to him about a really nice Christmas movie called Polar Express. The movie has a great Christmas message but even more importantly, an amazing steam train. I mentioned the movie to coordinator Emma so that hopefully one day he gets to watch it.

It was then off to Coles supermarket with half a dozen members to purchase groceries to make tacos. They helped by pushing the trolley, getting the items of the shelf and packing them.

Some of the residents didn’t like to talk, but they interact in ways they felt comfortable. One member saw his sister.  He recognised her and started pacing excitedly. She came to say hello, and introduced herself and he was happy by this surprise sighting of his sister. I enjoyed watching them interact and hope one day he will be able to say hello to her.

When we got back to Bedford, a gentleman gave me a hug and welcomed me back. We chopped ingredients for the tacos including tomatoes and lettuce. After doing some general clean up I went and had a lunch break while the members of Bedford ate. The coordinators told us that as soon as lunch is over, it gets chaotic as the members wait for their next adventure.

After lunch, I supervised one of the residents brushing his teeth. Then we went for a two hour bus ride around Port Lincoln to watch cranes, helicopters and boats.

We sat out at DK Quarries for half an hour watching gravel being crushed and I received an education from everyone on the bus on what each machine was used for.

We then had a brief discussion about where else we could drive to, so I suggested my dog would like to meet everyone for a pat and a scratch and they were more than happy to drive up to my home to meet Charlie, my dog and Charlie was pleased to meet everyone too.

On the bus ride, one of the ladies, told me she thought we could be best friends. That was really nice to hear, she was such a lovely gentle person, and I was sorry that I was only spending one day with everyone from Bedford.

When we got back it was time to start toileting and preparing everyone for home time. I didn’t have to do any of the toileting duties, but I did have to help a couple of people to independently pack their bags and start gathering things together.

As I left for the day, I discussed with Emma about going back to spend another day with everyone before they close for the year. My next visit will be on one of my scheduled days off, but I enjoyed myself so much, I don’t mind that my next day of volunteering will be in my own time, I am happy to be doing this as an extra volunteer day.

Emma was very appreciative of Beyond Bank’s support and thought our volunteering program was a great initiative for our members and our staff to get involved in volunteering. She was delighted to learn that I wanted to return and said I was welcome back anytime.

On a recent day off, I drove past the Bedford van at the roundabout, and looked up to see the whole bus waving at me, which made me so very happy and I’m looking forward to volunteering with Bedford again soon.