Graeme’s story: Driven to be a volunteer

We have many volunteers at VisAbility who spend their spare time giving back to our community. We couldn’t exist without them. People tell us how beneficial they find volunteering, whether that be as a volunteer driver or a volunteer reader in our audio library. Research shows that regular volunteering leads to an increase in happiness levels.

We have 373 active volunteers – that’s 260 in WA and 113 in Tasmania.

Graeme started volunteering with us seven years ago and is one of our longest-standing. This is his story.

Volunteer driver Graeme sat at the steering wheel of the mini-bus smiling
Graeme, a volunteer driver, transports people to and from appointments

Why did you decide to become a volunteer driver?

My partner was vision impaired and mentioned that VisAbility was looking for volunteers. I’d just lost my job and was in my early fifties, so I thought why not?

I came in and spoke to someone, and then completed a police check. Initially, they said they’d like me to help out in the woodworking shed, but to be honest, metalwork is more of my interest. However, I soon found my niche transporting clients, taking them from their home to VisAbility.

Why do you do it?

If you’d ask me ‘what’s my why?’ it’s simple, I enjoy it. I don’t feel beholden to anyone to do it because it doesn’t feel like a chore. Being a volunteer driver is perfect for me as I like meeting people and I get to find out more about them as people. I am like family to them. I’m not their therapist, but I’ve had many conversations and I’m a bit of a sounding board for them.

I’ve met some lovely clients. One of my regulars is 101-years-old. Sometimes I’ve had to pick up two people at separate houses and bring them to VisAbility for appointments. I’ve learned over the years that everyone likes the front seat!

I’m getting to know Perth and the surrounding area very well. I’m 61-years-old, so I’m also learning about the challenges of getting older.

Graeme stands next to the mini bus with Grand Delusion band members
Graeme drives members of the band Grand Delusions to events

As well as taking individual clients to appointments, I also drive the VisAbility minibus. I took the VisAbility band Grand Delusions to the Lions Eye Institute when they performed Christmas Carols at the clinic last year, as well as taking the group to perform at a Rotary Awards event.

I also do a few errands for the Community Activity Centre (CAC) getting art supplies and picking up glue and wood for the woodworking shed.

What do you do in your spare time?

A year or so ago, I started learning massage. My interest has been in Chinese massage which involved firm techniques. There’s more pressure applied and I use motions like pressing, nipping, stepping, and twisting – applying direct pressure.

I have my own massage weekly. I’ve learned through the Chinese massage community. It’s refreshing to see what a difference it can make.

Tell us something we might not know about you?

I collect elephants for my mother. When I drop clients off at the Community Activity Centre, I’ll look around the op shops looking at bric-a-brac and DVDs and searching for elephants.

I think being a volunteer driver is quite apt for me as I worked for many years for a model car company that designed small-scale matchbox cars. You could say I moved up a gear when I replaced model cars for larger ones!

There is a range of volunteer opportunities at VisAbility. We’re always looking for people to help, so why not visit our volunteering page to find out more?