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Agnes lets her hair down

Many volunteers go above and beyond in their roles. Agnes Jones is one of them. The Wandin senior volunteers at not for profit Victorian disability and aged provider, Villa Maria’s Outer Encounters – an after school care and holiday program for children with disabilities.
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Many volunteers go above and beyond in their roles. Agnes Jones is one of them.

The Wandin senior has been volunteering at not for profit Victorian disability and aged provider, Villa Maria’s Outer Encounters – an after school care and holiday program for children with disabilities – for the past four years.  

Ms Jones, aged in her 60s, is passionate about her role, visiting the after school care and holiday program twice weekly to keep the 23 children who access the program engaged and entertained with art and craft activities, puzzles, hand massages and storytelling.

Just prior to Christmas, Ms Jones was working on the committee of Wandin’s Twilight Festival, which involved a colouring competition for children.

Not wanting the children at Outer Encounters to miss out, she advocated for their involvement along with children from mainstream schools and organised for some extra prizes and encouragement awards, donated by a generous local newsagency.

The children happily completed their entries and were invited, along with their families, to attend the festival and competition awards.

“I thought, ‘my kids could do that’ (colouring in),” she said.  “It doesn’t matter how good they are at doing it, but the fact that they’ll get involved is great.”

Outer Encounters coordinator, Susan Muller, said Ms Jones’ gesture reflected her constant drive to keep the children happy. 

“At the heart of it all was just to do something nice for our kids, which is just so beautiful. Ms Jones’ took that extra step from her work with Villa Maria to go out into the community because she wanted the children to have the benefits of entering a competition, having fun and getting some recognition.”

Ms Muller said it also helped to spread the word about the vital respite support Outer Encounter’s offered to local families of children with disabilities.

Ms Jones said she considered volunteering as a “worthwhile experience.”

“I love the fact that the children are such fun to be with and I can let my hair down with them. Helping them to write their names, even if it’s just one letter, and seeing the joy in their faces that they’ve achieved something is fantastic.”

Figures released in 2011 by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show more than onethird of Australians engaged in voluntary work last year, with more women volunteering than men.

People aged 65 years and over mostly volunteered for welfare and community organisations, whereas 27% of volunteers were also more likely than non-volunteers to provide care to someone with a disability, longterm health conditions or problems with old age.

Visit the Villa Maria website to volunteer for the organisation. 

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