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Four friends who have collectively volunteered for more than 45 years at Mater are encouraging others to get connected and give back to their community.
Mater mates Brian and Barbara Daley, and Mike and Mary Cardillo have been friends for more than 50 years and shared many life moments, including raising their families, together.
They share a passion for volunteering at Mater’s hospitals in South Brisbane, making an everyday difference to the lives of patients and families.
Mrs Cardillo began volunteering at Mater 23 years ago when she bought a new car, but no longer had children to ferry to school each day.
“I thought it was selfish to have a new car to myself, so I started to volunteer by driving day-respite patients to and from the hospital,” Mrs Cardillo said.
After Mater purchased a patient transport bus, Mrs Cardillo worked for more than 15 years offering patients books and magazines from the hospital library trolley.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, she moved to providing a tea service in patient clinics across Mater Hospital Brisbane and Mater Mothers’ Hospital.
“Volunteering at Mater and seeing the daily struggles that patients and their families endure has given me perspective over the years,” she said.
“To sit and talk to people and help them get above their troubles is something I love and was a reason I continued volunteering after I stopped driving the patients.”
Inspired by her friend, Mrs Daley wanted to give back to the community when she retired 11 years ago and started volunteering at Mater.
“I currently work as an Ambassador helping all the lost souls find their way,” Mrs Daley said.
“Every day is different – you think you know everything, but often discover you are always learning new things.”
Mr Cardillo, who is about to turn 80, was the next to volunteer his time and services by becoming the first male Ambassador at Mater Mothers’ Hospital.
“It’s a great role where you do everything from greeting people, helping them find their way around the hospital, escorting patients to their rooms, delivering files from one section of the hospital to another, and so much more,” Mr Cardillo said.
However, it hasn’t been his first venture into healthcare, previously working as an architect and partner in his own firm that designed hospitals.
Mr Daley has a long history of volunteering in the community and was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for his contributions in 2019.
After initially working as a volunteer driver, Mr Daley now helps create and compile more than 35 information items for distribution to patients on the hospital wards.
“Every Thursday we produce 200 brochures and two forms for Mater Mothers’ Hospital – there are a lot of babies being born at the Mater,” he said.
“I have had a wonderful life, and volunteering is my way of giving back and saying thank you to the community for the life I have.”
The two couples encourage others contemplating volunteering to “give it a go” and praise the opportunities that have arisen to develop social connections, especially as they grow older.
“Volunteering at the Mater has been a godsend for me, and I have found some really lovely friends out of it,” Mrs Cardillo said.
Mater at Home Acting Clinical Lead of Social Work Tiffany Clayton said the friends were setting a wonderful example for others, with older people’s mental and social health impacted significantly in recent years by lockdowns and social isolation because of COVID-19.
“Many of our elderly patients reduced their community access and contact with family, friends or neighbours, even when COVID-19 lockdowns weren’t in effect due to fear of infection,” Ms Clayton said.
“This led to many patients reporting increased feelings of loneliness and anxiety.”
Ms Clayton said that Mater at Home practitioners continued to support clients in their homes throughout this period, mindful they may have been the only face-to-face interactions for these patients.
“It’s part of our Social Work assessment to check in with patients about their social network and supports,” she said.
“We know that increased social isolation and loneliness can have an impact on mental health and wellbeing, particularly in older adults, so it is a priority for Mater to screen and offer support to affected patients.”
Ms Clayton said the message being shared by the couples was an encouraging one and a reminder of the personal benefits being an active member of society can provide, especially for those growing older.
Mater at Home provides home and community-based services, including dietetics, occupational therapy, psychology, physiotherapy, and more.
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