Spotlight on our volunteers: meet Helen
McAuley’s volunteers are at the very heart of our services, extending our capacity to deliver our programs and bringing a diverse set of skills and life experiences to the women and children we support. With 45 of them giving freely of their time, they bring matchless energy and enthusiasm to McAuley’s services.
Volunteers such as Helen Bertuna though take the view that it’s important to get involved and make a contribution. ‘As human beings we’re all connected. By helping someone, I’m lifting everyone in the community up just a little,’ she says.
‘There is an amazing feeling of wellbeing after I volunteer.’
Helen says she has followed in the footsteps of her mother, who was always an active volunteer for the Red Cross and very community oriented. Helen herself continues to volunteer for the Red Cross as well as putting her hand up for anything McAuley asks of her.
Her teaching skills have made her a natural fit for our education program, which matches volunteer tutors to provide weekly online tutoring support. The tutors are an invaluable resource for children whose education has been disrupted by family violence, and could easily become disconnected from schooling.
Helen says the child she is tutoring is doing quite well at school so the sessions tend to be light-hearted. ‘Sometimes she is a bit tired (and grumpy!) for her sessions, so we adapt to how she’s feeling. We might sing together; I keep it fun and engaging.
‘As much as the educational elements, I feel she is benefiting from just being connected. Like other children who’ve been through trauma, I think it’s important she knows there’s someone there for her, who’s friendly and smiling. Her mum has just had a new baby and she seems to value the extra help as well.’
A qualified Reiki master, Helen has also donated mindfulness cards to McAuley and is hoping to offer her skills in relaxation and meditation soon, believing they could be transformative for women whose mental health has been challenged by experiences of family violence and homelessness.
She has always been available for other activities for McAuley as well, such as doing gold-coin Christmas present wrapping at shopping centres. When we opened new accommodation services, she enthusiastically tackled tasks most of us run a mile from: assembling industrial shelving units (‘they did seem to take for ever!’) and putting together flat pack pieces of furniture. In fact Helen relishes the ‘behind the scenes’ anonymity of rolling her sleeves up and doing these important tasks that some might find tedious. Though she does admit that there might be a bedside table somewhere that’s been put together back to front!