When Ross retired four years ago, he had no idea that his new role in life would be talking every week to a 13 year old boy going though very hard times.
Ross is one of the volunteers recruited, trained and managed by OzChild in a program funded by the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council. OzChild’s Mornington Peninsula Volunteers work with families and children who are facing difficulties in their lives. The volunteers help those families with everything from everyday tasks like shopping to more critical help, such as emotional support, parenting strategies or like Ross, spending time each week talking to the children in the family.
For Ross, he spends a couple of hours each week just listening and talking to Jack*, a 13 year old boy whose single mum had faced incredible hardship and was recovering from major challenges in her life.
“I’d been volunteering with Jack for about a couple of years. He’s been through a lot for someone his age. Some of the things he’s experienced, I can’t even tell you – they’re very hard,” said Ross.
Not long after Ross retired, his wife passed away. Both of his adult sons and their children and families live overseas, leaving Ross with a lot of time to spare.
“My wife and I had always talked about becoming foster carers when we got older, but when she passed away it didn’t seem right anymore. So I looked into volunteering instead.” When he first began asking about volunteering locally with OzChild, he didn’t know what to expect.
“I didn’t know what I was walking into when I first went into the office. But I went there, I did an introductory training course, and it was great!
“I’ve been very fortunate, I have a coordinator who’s amazing. She’s always there, I can call her anytime.”
Spending time with Jack over the last few years has been a fulfilling part of Ross’s retired life, as he has a grandson of similar age overseas. “Working with Jack has been like spending time with my own grandson.”
Ross meets with Jack once a week and they mostly go for walks while talking about his school, home and life. “I know when he’s okay because he never shuts up, and when he’s not okay, he gets silent.”
This friendship is clearly important to young Jack, because when Ross offered to visit less often, Jack insisted he still wanted the weekly visits to continue. Both Jack and his mum Kelly are vocal in how much this relationship has helped them. And Ross’s admiration for Jack is also obvious.
“For what he’s been through, Jack is the most honest, moral, straightforward kid. He’s amazing. I’ve been very fortunate to know him. He’s got the biggest heart.”
*Name changed to protect privacy