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Volunteering an important addition to the retirement plan

CONSUMER STORY – Volunteering was always a part of the plan for Steve Daysh of Adelaide. But it ended up happening a lot sooner than he originally intended after COVID-19 put a stop to his consulting work.

Last updated: May 9th 2022
Steve Daysh, volunteer for Vinnies, with the iconic Adelaide ‘Fred’s Van’. [Source: Supplied]

Steve Daysh, volunteer for Vinnies, with the iconic Adelaide ‘Fred’s Van’. [Source: Supplied]

Mr Daysh was the former Human Resources (HR) Director at the University of Adelaide, a role he left in 2006 and went into international consultancy work. He was in Africa with his partner when COVID brought an end to travel and he needed to return home.

“I realised that I was, if not retired, certainly semi-retired. And my partner in life, Anna, was also in a similar situation. And we thought, what can we do?” recalls Mr Daysh.

My Daysh saw advertising for a team leader position with Vinnies ‘Fred’s Van’ initiative, which is a mobile food service that provides nutritious food, blankets and toiletries to people experiencing homelessness.

He explains that he had heard of the Vinnies initiative previously and had liked the concept of what Fred’s Van does for the community, so he was happy to put his hand up for the role.

“Volunteering was always on the cards. I didn’t want to just retire and stay home and read the paper. My kids have grown up and neither of them have children, so I don’t get asked to look after grandchildren. So I have a fair bit of free time!” says Mr Daysh.

For Mr Daysh, there were a couple of reasons he wanted to volunteer, the first reason was his belief that giving back to the community is incredibly important.

On top of that, he explains that no matter if you are partly retired or fully retired, volunteering is the perfect opportunity to find a new purpose in life after your working career and to meet new people.

My Daysh says his voluntary work with Fred’s Van fit well within his retirement and enjoys the interactions he is able to have with people who utilise the service.

In his role, Mr Daysh undertakes scheduling, stocking the van, team safety, and making sure the van service runs smoothly.

He also enjoys chatting with people who come and visit Fred’s Van, he says that people appreciate the conversation as being homeless can be a very lonely and isolating experience.

“As volunteers, we try not to be too intrusive into their personal lives, however, you do see that they often come up to you and start talking, and you realise that as the cards of life are played, some of the circumstances they describe are things that can happen easily to all of us,” explains Mr Daysh.

“A breakdown in a relationship, something has happened at work or an illness. Most of these people are just like you and I, it is just that life has treated them badly in terms of the cards they have been dealt.”

Mr Daysh enjoys the camaraderie among everyone on the Fred’s Van team. He believes the volunteers put so much hard work and effort into preparing food for people who need it, and they are able to share a joke and story or two throughout the process.

Additionally, Mr Daysh has seen firsthand the community among homeless people in Adelaide. He says it is easy to form impressions of homeless people, but he has seen such selfless acts from people doing it tough, including people making sure others who are running late to the Fred’s Vans service are able to get food in time.

He says that volunteering is so important not only for the people who need services, like what Fred’s Van provides, but also for the people volunteering and getting together to make it happen.

“I think it is a two-way street. The community needs things, whether it is Fred’s Van or just somebody volunteering to show people around a museum, because a lot of these types of services can’t exist unless you have volunteers because there isn’t enough money in the sector for someone to get paid to do it,” explains Mr Daysh.

“The other thing is when you reach retirement age, and sometimes it can happen like I guess it did with me probably a bit earlier than I was anticipating because of COVID, you haven’t necessarily got all of your plans in place to what you are going to do when you are fully retired.

“Doing voluntary work is a fantastic way to keep in contact with the community and feel as if you are part of that community and doing something worthwhile, the same as if you were in a job.”

Mr Daysh highly recommends for people to put themselves out there and give volunteering a go, as voluntary work can open up so many windows and perspectives in life that you have never experienced or been exposed to before.

He believes volunteering can help you look and understand people in a different light, particularly people that are disadvantaged in society.

Without volunteers, Mr Daysh says important services wouldn’t be able to run and services that people need, like Fred’s Van or charity shops, just wouldn’t exist.

What volunteering opportunities are you keen to get involved in? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content:

Volunteering benefits for older Australians
Returning to volunteering after a COVID-19 break
How to get involved in your community
Quality of life factors for older Australians


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