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Fergus grandmother, granddaughter team up for VON friendly visits

Inter-generational volunteers - Olivia Rumbell and her grandmother Dorothy Gibson volunteer as friendly visitors with the Victorian Order of Nurses. They visit a 94-year-old woman in Fergus for one to two hours a week.  Photo by Jaime Myslik

Fergus grandmother, granddaughter team up for VON friendly visits

by Jaime Myslik

FERGUS - A Fergus grandmother and granddaughter have found a unique way to spend time together while also giving back to their community:  they’re a volunteer team.

Olivia Rumbell and her grandmother Dorothy Gibson started volunteering with the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) at the beginning of this year.

“I was looking for volunteering because I need to volunteer,” Rumbell said in a recent interview with the Advertiser.

She added her grandmother wanted to get involved because she is new to the area.

Gibson explained, “I just enjoy being around Liv ... I was at the hospital right after she was born ... we have a good bond and it’s lovely.”

Rumbell agreed, “We’re pretty close, it seems like a fun thing to do.”

It was that bond that had VON volunteer and community engagement officer Teresa Waldner excited about the team.

“I thought it was so unique that they wanted to do it together and I’m a big believer ... of inter-generational work with seniors and youth,” said Waldner.

“So I thought this is such a great opportunity on so many different levels for experience and it just really invigorates the seniors to have that youthful presence.”

Gibson and Rumbell, a Centre Wellington District High School Grade 10 student, conduct friendly visits for VON.

The program provides social visits for seniors and adults with disabilities who may be limited in their opportunities to socialize or leave the house.

Once a week the duo visits for an hour or two at the home of a 94-year-old Fergus woman.

“We like to talk a lot about ... (the) past and stories, a lot about World War Two and also we bring ... my grandma’s ukulele a lot,” Rumbell said. “My Grandma likes to play it and make me play her ukulele.”

On each visit the pair tries to bring a new and different activity. On one memorable occasion, they brought a tea set and all the fixings for a tea party.

“She loved it,” Gibson said. “She kept holding the little cups and saying how lovely they were. It was a big hit. We brought a thermos of tea and it was so great.”

Waldner said her job is to find the right volunteer for the right client.

“It’s kind of like but for obviously a very different purpose but you just never know,” she said. “But when you hear the stories and you know it’s fulfilling to everyone involved it’s such a rewarding experience for all.”

While Rumbell is up for anything, it’s her grandmother that comes up with the unique ideas for each visit.

“I think you have a childish spirit,” Gibson’s daughter and Rumbell’s mother Wendy Gibson told her mother. “You like to play so I think it’s natural for you. You just easily find fun things to do.”

While Rumbell and Gibson have found a successful match, Walder said there are only about 15 regular friendly visits that occur weekly. There are about 30 more people on the wait list.     

However, the Rumbell/ Gibson team isn’t the norm.

“Most of our programs run between 8:30 and 4:30 so ... it is unique to have a student Liv’s age involved in this program in particular, but we love it, it’s great,” said Waldner.

She added there are also about 10 clients on the wait list to sign up for weekly telephone reassurance calls with a volunteer, which provide a regular security check and social contact for seniors or adults with disabilities.

“They just need a voice on the other end of the phone,” Waldner said. “They’re not big time commitments and they’re very rewarding.”

Another program offered by VON is transportation services, where a driver, most likely a volunteer, takes clients to medical appointments.  

Neither Gibson nor her husband have a driver’s license so they are frequent users of the transportation services.

“Thank goodness for VON,” she said. “Our life wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as it is without that wonderful organization.”

On a monthly basis the couple uses transportation services to take them to Toronto for medical appointments.

“That’s a good example, you’re giving into it as well with your volunteer time and you’re also depending on some of the other volunteers,” Waldner said.

“So it’s kind of the perfect situation.”

Gibson and her husband moved to Fergus just over a year ago. The family sees volunteering with VON as a great way for her to get to know the community as well as the people.

“You’re a real people person,” Rumbell said to her grandmother.

“I think this is the best thing we can do because ... we can’t drive, we can’t drive people around and I think you’re very friendly and you like talking to people and stuff. I think this is just the best option for that.”

The grandmother and granddaughter also have the opportunity to hear many stories of the past from the woman with whom they volunteer.

“Those stories are all on their way out,” Waldner said. “She’s 94 years old. She’s able to give a perspective that not many people are able to give. So I think there’s a lot of value on every end. It’s not just giving, you’re getting a lot too.”

While Rumbell and Gibson have only been volunteering for a few months they have no plans to stop any time soon. Rumbell said they’ve been developing a relationship with the lady they visit.

“I think that we’re kind of a little closer, I think we’re more comfortable and know each other more,” she said.

And for Gibson, it’s all about the fun.

“It’s really nice and makes you happy if you can smile or be silly sometimes during the day,” Gibson said.

“People aren’t silly enough. Be silly. Just downright silly.”

To find out more about volunteering with VON call 519-323-2330 ext. 4962.   


April 21, 2017


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