Meet the volunteers doing their bit during COVID-19

Meet the volunteers doing their bit during COVID-19
Posted on Wed 22 Apr 2020

[Image shows CPA volunteers, Taylor and Amelia, shop for people with disabilities during COVID-19]

Amelia is a proud Lake Macquarian, born and raised. She has lived there her whole life. The soon-to-be 22 year old is studying Occupational Therapy at the University of Newcastle.

She knew she wanted to volunteer after she finished high school. She started volunteering at a local Youth Drop-in Centre, but she didn’t feel this was the area she wanted to be in.

“I was going through the stages of applying for university, and I was tossing up between studying physiotherapy or OT. I knew I wanted to work in health, and I knew I wanted to help people. I hoped volunteering would give me guidance and help me get a foot in the door.”

She spoke to a friend studying physiotherapy, who recommended she try volunteering at Cerebral Palsy Alliance.

“I’d always had an inkling that I wanted to work in the disability sector and I was particularly interested in paediatric disability. I lived down the road from CPA, so I contacted them, did an orientation session and it went from there.”

That was in 2016.

Cut to the coronavirus pandemic, and Amelia is providing extra support for residents with complex disabilities living in CPA’s supported accommodation houses.

“When I got the call-out, I immediately knew I wanted to help those vulnerable people, where I can and however I can. I emailed back to express my interest.”  

Along with her fellow volunteers, she does grocery shopping for six to eight group homes in the Lake Macquarie and Newcastle areas. This includes Cardiff, Lambton, Wallsend, Kotara and Stockton. It can take several hours to travel from house-to-house.

“I feel if I don’t do it, who else will do it? But I enjoy it too. For me, volunteering is not a chore. It is something I am motivated by. How would you feel if you needed extra support and no-one helped you?”

Amelia is keen to address some common misconceptions about the level of coronavirus support people with disability have received:

“People complain that people with disabilities get a special shopping hour and have access to online shopping. But getting to the shops at 7am isn’t viable or even realistic for people living in our group homes. As for online shopping, sometimes the generic home brands sell out, so only the expensive brands are available. Our clients cannot necessarily afford those brands with their budgets.”

For Amelia, it is important for the community to be aware that the pandemic does not affect everyone equally.

“I don’t think people realise just how much certain individuals in our community are being affected. Unless you have personal experience or you interact with people with disability, you wouldn’t be aware of the challenges they face.”

That is why our supporters are so important. We are more concerned than ever for the wellbeing of those we serve. Our supporters ensure that those living with CP and other disabilities have their needs met.

“We all need to come together as a community,” Amelia says. “By providing extra support, you could change someone’s life.”

If you would like to learn more about our volunteering opportunities, please email volunteer@cerebralpalsy.org.au

You are invited to participate in an online survey about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on your child with a neurodevelopmental disability or rare genetic disorder.