As part of National Volunteer Week we want to show you the different ways people can become involved with Sands.
Nerissa is our Cairns Regional Contact, parent supporter and Sands Queensland Committee Secretary and here we ask her a few questions about her time at Sands Queensland.
What motivated you to start volunteering with Sands?
I started volunteering at Sands after moving up to Cairns from Melbourne. In Melbourne I had access to several support groups that I attended regularly and was really surprised to find no groups available for parents in Cairns. I called the Sands office and spoke to Liz, it just so happened that another lady (Kelly) was looking for a group as well. Kelly and I got together, attended training and started the Cairns group. It was really great working with Kelly and to be honest I don’t think I would have stuck it out without her.
At first my volunteering at Sands was motivated to fulfil my own need to be around other bereaved parents. Over time this has changed to just really wanting the group to be available for others. I also just really love volunteering. It’s great to be involved in something that you feel passionate about.
How are you involved with Sands currently?
I have a few different roles at Sands. In terms of providing support I respond to emails on the sands support email address, have a rostered day once a fortnight on the 1300 0 SANDS support line and co-facilitate the support group in Cairns.
I also sit on the Sands Qld committee as the secretary and assist in running events in Cairns.
The guys up here in Cairns are currently running a fundraising drive to purchase a cold cot for Cairns base. It’s really great to be involved in a project like this, to know that providing a cold cot for the hospital will allow parents to extend that precious small amount of time they have with their baby is a great feeling.
How has Sands assisted you?
Sands has helped me by providing an opportunity to part of a community and feeling like I have a place. My grief was probably the most isolating experience I have had in my life. Being around other parents was the only time I felt remotely sane.
Volunteering has also provided an opportunity for me to develop a whole range of skills like, public speaking, event organisation and communication skills.
What do you value most about being the Cairns Regional Contact?
I just feel that it’s really important that regional people have access to support services like Sands. Unfortunately it is becoming more common that regional people have to travel, or just miss out altogether.
I also value all the people (parents, volunteers, Sands staff, hospital staff) I get to work with and make connections with. We have such an amazing crew up here and across the whole state. I feel really lucky to be around them and have the opportunity to learn from everyone involved.
What is your greatest achievement during your time with Sands?
To be honest I don’t see any achievements I have been involved in at Sands as an individual achievement. What Sands has really taught me is how great it is to be part of a community and how the most amazing things can happen when you work as part of a team. None of the things that have happened in Cairns would have occurred without the many people that have been involved. Even roles like being on the support line are done as part of a team and are made easier by all of us working together.
What have you learnt about your own grief?
For me, being involved with Sands has shown me that something positive can (eventually) come out of my grief. Also that grieving is absolutely normal, people should be allowed to grieve as openly and as long as they need to.
It’s not always easy being a volunteer. I’ve made plenty of mistakes and wish I had sometimes done things differently. Sometimes the support groups are really quiet and we wonder if we should keep going with it. Then two months later it’s really busy again!
I would just say to any volunteer to use the supports around you. Never be afraid to call the office and ask for advice. The livelihood of Sands really relies on our volunteer base, so as a volunteer it’s really important to take care of your-self both physically and emotionally.