Huntington's Volunteer Feature: Helena
The Huntington's Victoria's volunteer program has been running at full swing! Every day HV and the HD community benefit from the support and skills of volunteers.
Let us introduce Helena, one of our invaluable volunteers.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Germany, during the Second World War. At that time, many people were displaced in Europe. My parents were married in a hard labour camp, and then after the war ended we immigrated to Australia when I was only 2 years old. My parents were of Polish decent, and literally were faced with a choice between one boat bound for the United States, or the other Australia. They ended up making the right choice! After spending time as refugees in some migrant camps in Mildura and Bonigilla, eventually resettlement came and my family settled in a country town outside of Melbourne. I lived there for the rest of my childhood, it was a wholesome country life with my parents and 2 younger brothers.
It was challenging at first with language and different cultural aspects, but now I think if someone saw my lunchbox they would be pretty impressed! I still love my continental delicacies!
What are you best at?
While I cannot claim to being 'best' at this, I really enjoy painting and art. I've dabbled over the years with oils, acrylics and water colour and they all have a certain appeal. I enjoy helping others, and lending a listening ear when someone needs to talk, so I guess that's what also appeals about volunteering. I'm also working on being the best Grandma I can be for my two grandsons, Cooper and Carter too!
Why did you choose to volunteer with HV?
I'm a little shy to say, I didn't know a great deal about Huntington's disease but something compelled me to explore and help in some way, and once I visited the office it felt like a great environment. It's different to other volunteer roles, as I used to do retail at opportunity shops for many years, so it was a challenge to find out if I could make the grade in an office environment and if I could be up to the challenge when clients call in on the phone or situations I had not encountered previously. Sometimes it can be frustrating for clients if they are aiming to communicate and get their message across. It pays to be patient. As I grow older, I know how important it is for people to be kind and patient with one another.
How did you prepare to volunteer at HV?
I looked up the opportunities for volunteering on line, and researched a little bit about Huntington's Victoria and tried to understand how Huntington's can affect people. I wanted to gain this understanding so I could help with some level of awareness about the challenges and opportunity, and be part of a positive support network. The HT team really helped me also. They continue to make me feel at home and support me if there is a question or inquiry that is out of my depth.
What is the best thing you have learnt from volunteering at HV?
What I've noticed while I've been volunteering is how kind and patient people are over the phone. No one has time to be cross or angry because everyone is here for the same purpose, to help clients. It's a good reminder for me that I can still remain active (though I have my limitations also) and contribute in some small way to the work of HV.