Wendy Robertson has been a Thursday volunteer with Easy Care Gardening Inc (ECG) since 2004. ECG is a Home and Community Care funded charitable organisation. Teams of Easy Care Gardening volunteers work in the gardens of the frail elderly and people with a disability on a pension. The volunteers weed, prune, tidy and mulch so that vulnerable people might remain in their own homes. An enthusiastic volunteer, Wendy enjoys her work with Easy Care Gardening and is a very deserving recipient of our Gardener of the Month Award.
On Australia Day 2007, she became an Australian citizen, having come from England in September 2003 to live in Australia. Wendy has written here about her experience as a volunteer and what it brings to her life:
An English woman’s view of Easy Care Gardening
By Wendy Robertson
I left England for Sydney in September 2003. It was a career move for my husband, and our 20-year-old daughter was feeling adventurous and decided to come, too. A life in the sun beckoned and none of us has ever looked back.
So why do I volunteer with Easy Care Gardening? Just a few months before leaving England, my 79-year-old mother suffered a stroke. Being strong and brave and independent, she continues to live at home with help from social services. She has lived in the family home for well over 40 years, but suddenly she couldn’t look after the house or the garden any more. I thought how wonderful it would be if there was an organisation offering volunteer help, but in England there was nothing. Friends asked me what I planned to do in Australia, and I told them I would be looking for a volunteer position with a gardening charitable organisation.
Imagine my surprise then, when searching the Go Volunteer website, I found just the organisation I had been looking for – Easy Care Gardening!
There are several reasons why I volunteer with Easy Care Gardening. Firstly, as a newcomer to Australia I meet many great people who, like me, volunteer some of their time. We cover a large age range and differing backgrounds, but all have the same interest in gardens and helping others. Volunteers come, and sometimes they go, but always there are interesting conversations to be had.
Secondly, through working with ECG I have been lucky enough to explore areas of Sydney’s North Shore that I might not have had the opportunity to visit otherwise.
Finally, there are all those wonderful people we call ‘clients’, but are more like friends when we visit them often and tend their gardens. What great people I have met, and the stories they have to tell – the family histories, whether they are Australian-born or migrants and, if so, where they originated and the reasons for migrating to Australia. These people have lived through war, and some have been through far more difficult times than we could ever imagine. I find it a privilege to have access to private gardens which, in many cases, have been the joy of their owners for many years. Each one is individual and reflects the character, needs and history of each family. Indeed, the gardens reflect the multicultural and historical background of Sydney.
Many clients I meet tell me they have spent time doing voluntary work, too. It is true what they say – if you will excuse the gardening pun – you really do reap what you sow.