Salty: Volunteers at Vision Australia, Belmont

For my job, I meet a lot of people involved with local charities and community organisations. Some may say this is just work – part of the job – but I genuinely love meeting these people.

What makes us ‘salty?’

Who are these people? Well, they’re people who you don’t really hear about on the news, who you’ll never probably hear about on the news but who I can’t think of a better way to describe than “salt of the earth.”

“Salt of the earth?” What do you mean?!

Well, that there’s people around in our community who are literally – practically – consistently making Geelong a better place. No cliches about it, really really.

How do you mean? Or who do you mean?

People like this man that was acknowledged at a function I attended, who has been volunteering at Vision Australia  for the last 10 years. Get this: 5 days a week.

He’s a full-time unpaid volunteer, dedicated to just making a difference in the lives of others.

“You’re not technically meant to volunteer that much,” said the Vision Australia manager, looking a bit awkward.
“But,” she said, “He just loves the place and can’t keep away.”

He’s cooking, serving, driving the bus, cleaning – doing anything he can to make the lives of those suffering blindness or low vision that much better.

And then there’s Joe, who volunteers much of his time escorting three lovable and low-vision elderly widows around Geelong, taking them to appointments and just ensuring that they can still get “out and about,” even to the theatre.

Joe was honoured for his service and blushed as his three appreciative friends chortled, “Thank You Joe!!”

Joe was an ex taxi-driver who decided, once he retired, that he wanted to keep using his skills in any way he could.

And then you’ve got the nice man called Murray who made an effort of sitting next to me at this function, even though there were plenty of other seats. He told me that he had just come from a funeral.

71-year-old Murray literally gave me the time of day, peering at his antique looking watch to confirm. He volunteers as a driver at Vision Australia one day a week, loves it and genuinely made an effort to make me – someone sitting on their own at this function – feel comfortable.

After the function, as I was standing around considering the sweets on offer a smiling lady came up to me and offered me to get me a coffee. She works at Vision Radio as someone who assists with eye magnification and that sort of thing.

I was only about a metre or so from the coffee table and told her this.

She wouldn’t hear of it and got me a coffee herself. While she was gone, someone else from Vision Australia (not a waiter: a volunteer) came up to me and asked if they could get me something.

Then, while I was waiting for the drink, an occupational therapist at Vision Australia came up and introduced herself. We chatted and she told me that her role was assisting blind or low vision children.

Then she showed me a Brail book. Brail. I had never seen it before.

Words can’t describe how I felt when I looked at Brail. I always knew it was another language but when I saw it for my own eyes, it hit me.

Brail is another language, the same way English is another language. Blind people read and write Brail. Other people read and write English. Some people read and write French,or Chinese or Hungarian. Others communicate through sign language. They’re all languages, we’re all human and just because someone knows – or doesn’t know – a particular language does not make one “better” than anyone else. By the way, on this topic, check out this great video!

As I was looking at Brail, and how it cool it was! (It reminded me of some secret “source code” or hieroglyphics ) my new friend brought me the cup of coffee.

Later, when I walked out of the Vision Australia building, complete with more than one hundred volunteers and a radio station run totally by volunteers, I wondered. Just wondered, what drives these people?

In the midst of all the terrible things that can happen in our world, there can be pockets of hope – where peoples lives are being changed – and you know what? It all comes from serving. And the genuine stuff comes from not in a “look at me, whiz-bang, I’m-just-doing-this-to-be-seen” way but it comesfrom something deep in our heart which WANTS to help people, which wants to make others’ lives better, which wants to LOVE people. The whole “salt of the earth” thing, I guess!

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