When Rosie Bililis started volunteering at CatholicCare’s Neighbour Aid, little did she know that at 74 years old, she’d be reaching the milestone of almost three decades of service.
The mother-of-two started volunteering with Neighbour Aid in Blacktown in 1992, supporting elderly people with shopping, travel to medical appointments, outings and exercise. Her volunteer position supports the work of the trained social support workers who assist the elderly to continue living independently in their own home.
“I have been blessed with such wonderful clients throughout my time volunteering for Neighbour Aid,” she said. “I didn’t expect to make it to almost 30 years of service, and I certainly would not have come this far without the support of my lovely colleagues at CatholicCare.”
At one stage, Rosie supported four clients in the program. She now visits 2 ladies at home which includes going out into the garden or for a walk.
One of Rosie’s fondest memories was with a regular client who didn’t want to go outside in the sun.
“It was quite difficult to encourage her to get her daily dose of sunshine,” she said. “So I told her that there might be a cheque from the Prime Minister in her letterbox, and off she went, outside to check her letterbox – in the sunshine!”
Volunteering has played an important role in Rosie’s life.
“I moved to Sydney from the Greek Islands on my own in 1966, and I wish to thank Australia for letting me be a part of their country,” she said. “I learnt to speak and read the English language through reading the newspaper and interacting with others, including visiting nursing homes.”
Rosie’s love of helping others was shaped by her mother, granddaughter and late husband.
“My mother played an important role in shaping how I help others, teaching me that no matter our colour, religion or nationality, we are all under the same umbrella and we all must love and help each other,” she said.
“The skills and education I had received in my volunteering role for Neighbour Aid helped me significantly when my husband became ill,” she said. “I now have a 12-year-old granddaughter who has a disability, and my experience helps to care for her as well. You learn to love, care and accept people the way they are.”
Despite the challenges of COVID-19, Rosie has learnt that difficult times create bonds between neighbours. The unexpected shift in her volunteering role meant that she needed to adapt to her client’s needs, offering them a twice-weekly phone calls to compensate for an in-person visit.
“My service for the Blacktown Neighbour Aid has taught me that if you want to help someone you will find a way to do so,” she said. “Even in challenging times, we must find a way to strengthen our human connection and bring joy to each other’s lives.”
“If you wish to volunteer, a small amount of your time could make a big difference.”
Receiving advanced training, supervision and support, volunteers are vital to the operation of Neighbour Aid. They are given the opportunity to socialise and enjoy engaging with members of the community and a team of like-minded people.
“I intend to continue to volunteer for Neighbour Aid until I too am elderly and need support myself,” Rosie said.
Neighbour Aid is a free service for social visits, with a small charge for taking clients shopping and to medical appointments. Our trained social support workers encourage inclusion and social contact with the community.
If you are interested in volunteering or would like to find out more information about the service, contact Deb Woolacott on 0418 114 055 or (02) 8843 2541.
With thanks to CatholicCare Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains.