Volunteer Stories

COTA SA Volunteer Stories

Sue Pitman

sue pitmanI started volunteering with COTA SA in September 2016 as an Information Access Volunteer and then added the role of Peer Educator with the Step Forward Together - Your Wellbeing, Your Plan project.

Before volunteering I have held a variety of roles over 30 years. After 11 months with Department of Defence located at Duntroon's academic library, I joined the APS in 1983 and spent 12 years with the Department of Veterans' Affairs. Roles with DVA ranged from policy development (income support and disability pensions) to budget management, legislation program management and senior executive support to the Repatriation Commission. I led the Budgets Branch (as acting CFO) for a period before joining Customs in late 1994.

I was promoted to the senior executive service and moved to the Australian Customs Service in October 1994. My roles in Customs included 3 years leading Budgets Branch (CFO); 3 years leading the Planning & International Branch; and 6 years leading various configurations of the Cargo, Trade and Compliance Divisions, including 6 months as acting deputy CEO with responsibility for the Passengers & Trade Facilitation Program. From December 2005 I managed large, nationally dispersed groups of staff undertaking complex regulatory and border taxation work.

I was president of a large community childcare association (NFP incorporated association) for 3 years during the early-mid 1990s, as the parent of two small children. In this role I appeared before the Industrial Commission and liaised with the ACT and Federal Governments on funding, business planning and regulatory issues.

I grew up in Adelaide and Moonta, and studied Psychology and History at Adelaide University. In the early 1980s, I undertook a number of units of the post-graduate diploma of professional accounting, including microeconomics, contract law and company law, at the then Canberra College of Advanced Education (now Canberra University).

I did the Company Directors Course in 2012 but did not sit the exam due to my relocation to Adelaide.

One part of life which I feel strongly about is maintaining my wellbeing. Officially, I took up regular personal training at 50 as a strategy to manage my working hours (to shorten my in-office day to 8 hours twice a week); to give me two scheduled hours each week when I could be uncontactable by my boss, colleagues and clients; and to get fit to deal with mental and physical stress.

In truth, it was vanity that first drove me to the gym - my 49 year old arms looked much older! I found the smallest gym in the city with an inspirational older woman to train me and began the gradual process of restoring muscle, balance and fitness. It was embarrassing to discover that I had forgotten how to use a skipping rope but equally wonderful to rediscover the pleasure of movement after many years of sitting at work. There are certain things I know I must do carefully or not at all to avoid injury, which is why I believe it is important to have a qualified trainer to guide me. They are experts at working with the material you give them.

I have maintained a twice weekly program of one on one training for the past 7 1/2 years, learned to row in 2013 and took up Pilates in 2015. It is not always easy - I trained through 2 frozen shoulders and have a moderate scoliosis - so I understand that fitness is not just for people who are well and injury-free.

My 87 year old father has also taken up twice weekly training since breaking his leg a couple of years ago and his improved quality of life, mobility and stability on his feet have all been impressive. It is definitely one of the best decisions I have ever made.

I was really pleased when my older daughter decided to become a qualified fitness trainer in 2014. It will stand her in good stead for the rest of her life.

Jackie Bowness

jackie's storyWhen I retired in early 2014 from my role as Lifestyle Coordinator at an Aged Care Facility, I was completely unprepared for my role as a retiree.

Lost and aimless, I was informed of and invited to become, a volunteer with COTA SA, filling a need for Peer Educator availability in the Barossa Region where I live.

I have been a volunteer in various capacities for many years, including as secretary, entertainment and trade site convenor and show hall organiser for the Angaston - Agriculture, Horticulture and Floriculture - Annual Show Society - enjoying the challenge and participation.

The role of Peer Educator with COTA SA has also offered me the challenge and responsibility I find so satisfying.

I have received valuable training from COTA SA enabling me to present the 3 Moving Right Along sessions, and also Pills and Spills. The lessons learned have been interesting and useful in my own life too.

Assisting with the "Every Generation Festival" in the Barossa and a couple of "Ageing in Style Expos" has also been part of my role.

When volunteering for COTA SA, I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting and getting to know other volunteers and the staff, who have always been most helpful and supportive. My role takes me to a variety of venues in various towns where I have been welcomed and appreciated. I feel comfortable, presenting programme sessions to my peers, meeting lots of people and being busy.

Christine Christopoulos

christine christopoulosI started as a volunteer with COTA SA in October 2014 and am looking forward to a long association with the organisation.

Recently retired as a lawyer I happened to be in the right place at the right time when I was offered a volunteer position in the Advance Care Directives Program. The area is very familiar to me as I spent many years in legal practice advising people about similar protocols. I am one of a team of three Information Officers. We present seminars in the community and offer "one on one" information sessions about Advance Care Directives to COTA SA members.

I have just completed a training course for the COTA SA program "Planning Ahead: make your wishes known". The program brings together the three main areas of my former legal practice: Wills, Enduring Powers of Attorney and Advance Care Directives. In presenting the program we also provide information about Organ Donation and Consumer Directed Care.

I feel almost like I'm back in practice talking about the issues I used to deal with daily -- but without the stress!

I also volunteer at Calvary Hospital North Adelaide in the Biography Service as a member of a team of biographers who help patients in palliative care write their life stories.

And I have volunteered in other ways over the years.

As I am bringing skills I have acquired over many years of working as a lawyer to both COTA SA and Calvary Hospital I find my current volunteer positions very satisfying.

I think my desire to be a volunteer comes from two strong role models I had. My mother was always volunteering for organisations like the Royal Flying Doctor Service, even when she was working as an executive secretary, and then later for Domiciliary Care when she retired. Her sister, my Aunty Aud stopped her volunteer work in her local nursing home and church welfare centre only two years ago at age 85.

When I'm not volunteering I write, go to painting classes; workout at gym, go to yoga classes and walk or run depending on how I feel on the day.

Family is very important to me and my husband. We enjoy helping to look after our two granddaughters and our two step grandchildren; going to their basketball games and various concerts and performances, and having regular family get-togethers.