Volunteers making community connections

Lifeline Tasmania CEO Debbie Evans says she believes that social isolation and loneliness play a greater role in mental health outcomes and suicidal behaviours than is currently understood and we as a community need to do more.

With this knowledge Lifeline Tasmania developed the ‘Chats Program’ for older Tasmanians experiencing social isolation.

Ms Evans said: “The Chats Program is funded by both the State and Federal Governments and through the delivery of this service we have continued to learn that loneliness plays a significant role in a person’s decision to end their own life”.

The Chats Program aims to help you to improve your health, happiness and confidence and reduce any feelings of loneliness or isolation for Older Tasmanians.

“At Lifeline Tasmania, with the assistance of more than 70 volunteers state-wide, we help older Tasmanians to strengthen their connections to their local community by providing opportunities for them to attend activities, have fun and build new friendships that extend beyond Chats,” Mrs Evans said.

Seventy One year old George Littlechild said he started volunteering for the Northern Tasmanian Chats Program six years ago just after he retired.

“I was just finding my way in retirement and was trying to work out how I would fill my time in an enjoyable way.

“I hadn’t heard about Chats at that stage, but someone I knew told me about it and I haven’t looked back since,” George explained.

The former motor mechanic, says he enjoys volunteering with Chats because the program is flexible and he can easily plan around other commitments.

“Some months I help out five to six times for a few hours each time and other months I might help two to three times but for a whole day,” he said.

George says that during his six years volunteering he has travelled almost all over the State and believes he gets as much out of the program as the participants in the program.

“Often I hear comments from the participants that they haven’t spoken to someone for days and days. There’s a lot of lonely people out there that could really benefit from a program like Chats and I am glad I can do my bit.”

During his six years volunteering for Lifeline Tasmania, George says it is hard to pin point one memorable moment, with many participants providing him inspiration.

“But there was one male participant who turned 100. It was really special to see him progress and participate in a program so late in his life. “

For more information on volunteering at Lifeline Tasmania email: [email protected]