My life as an undercover volunteer
Secret Millionaire – Channel Nine 9.30pm 29 Oct 2009
Episode Four: Features Naomi Simson
I need to start researching things. I have no idea how much things cost – how much do I need to provide for the beneficiaries to have enough to get what they need. What would a new van cost, and Bain-marie, children’s play equipment? Ugh I need my computer….
I have to be at 139 in time to help serve the lunch – it is a rush to get back to Brisbane in time – public transport really has it’s draw backs. It is great to walk in, say ‘Hi’ to a few people and get straight to work. The Bain-marie has broken so they have to serve lunch a bit early – plus clients have to wait while the fish comes out is small batches. I wonder why they pile so much ice- cream on the desert. Phyllis explains that they were donated 11 pallets of home brand vanilla ice cream. It is delivered one pallet at a time and when it arrives it fills up their whole freezer. Apparently when the ice cream was being shipped from Sydney the food vehicles refrigerator thermostat was a few degrees too high so the supermarket rejected the product. Instead of ditching it – they donated it. The ice-cream is perfectly good. Everyone wins.
There are such characters at 139 Club. But it is good to see some of the same faces. Mary in her Broncos shirt gives a big hello, Lynette in her sun glasses. Judy is not in today – she is at home. I wonder how she is getting on, I know her chemo starts next week.
One tall young man, originally from South America somewhere is so pleased with the meal that I hand him, and the smile he gets, he decides to serenade me. Everyone stops to listen I blush. I don’t think anyone has every sung to me before – another first experience.
I have more of a chat to Phyllis she has plans to start a catering business using the kitchen facilities to raise money for the centre. She desperately wants the kitchen overhauled.
I’m anxious to go to visit Judy at home, but first I clean, sweep floors, wipe tables. I get chatting to a young man with a goatee beard… he asks for my phone number. I smile and let him know that at the moment I don’t have a phone. He thinks this is very normal.
I say goodbye to Phyllis and Rod the manager. I like the centre, it is professionally run, clean (perhaps a bit stark). But without it so many people would simply have no where to go.
I really like what the centre represents, people coming together for each other. The centre is totally manned by volunteers on the weekend. Some have worked at 139 Club for more than a decade.
I’m glad to know that there is good food, a shower and clean clothes for those in need. I don’t know how many are out there who don’t use such services – but I would like to think that there is enough volunteers and donations so that the people in need in Australia won’t starve.
I must stop on the way to Judy’s place, I buy her flowers, hoping she has a vase, mandarins, lemonade and some scones. I’m not going to arrive empty handed.
Judy welcomes me to the door and she explains that she is resting up a bit, ready for her doctors appointments and the next phase of her treatment. She invites me in and shows me her sweet bed sit. Provided by the department of housing this tiny room split in two makes my green neon Hilton look large. Her furnishings she’s found, borrowed or been donated. The fridge is so small that the lemonade I give her does not fit.
The wardrobe – has no where to hang clothes. Judy is really living out of suitcases. We sit on her bed and she begins to share her story. At the age of 2 she was fostered. She had a tough childhood being in foster care for at least 12 years. She had a baby at 23, and it was discovered that she had cancer and had a hysterectomy. She said over the years (she is now 55) she has had lots of bits cut out – there has been many cancer and other health issues.
Judy sings the praises of both 139 Club and the Mater Hospital, worrying with out them she would not be here. Her daughter lives on the Gold Coast, and she goes whenever she can to see her two grand sons. Her eyes fill with joy when she talks about them.
Judy worries that facilities like 139 will be closed down because people don’t want to have the disadvantaged live near them.
Interesting that those who volunteer seem to be those with so little themselves.
It is really sad saying goodbye to Judy, we got on so well, chatted like old friends. Judy thinks we must have known each other in a previous life.
I’m melancholy as I leave; I think of all the furniture that we have discarded over the years, of our cupboards with plenty of food – and of my family. We have each other always. What would it take to make Judy’s life just a little easier as she embarks on her chemo program – who will hold her hand? This woman has had a rough trot since she was a child – but she keeps getting back up, dusting herself off, and giving to others.