A job you can even do in your PJS
Deirdre Scott says she wasn’t a chatterbox as a child but she has made up for it ever since.
The 74-year-old greatgrandmother has been a St John Caring Caller for nearly 20 years.
She made the very first call in 1994 when the service was in its trial phase and has called clients daily ever since.
The freephone service connects people who need a friend with those who have time for a daily chat.
It will kick off its 18th year on May 17.
A call a day can keep loneliness away, Mrs Scott says.
‘‘It just gives me, as well as them, somebody to talk to. I guess for them it’s about knowing that someone who cares about how their day is going is going to call every day.’’
Mrs Scott has chatted with about seven clients during her volunteering years.
She spoke with her first client every day for more than three years before the woman went into a rest home, she says.
Partners are matched by the St John team based on interests. Calls can range from a couple of minutes to half an hour.
The service is confidential so partners never meet but they can become lifelong friends.
‘‘I just like talking to somebody different – it’s very interesting. Talking to them is easy.
‘‘I wouldn’t have got to know them otherwise,’’ she says.
St John northern community care manager Michael Bancroft works at the organisation’s Mt Wellington base.
He says the scheme has benefits at both a community and national level.
The Caring Caller team includes several thousand participants throughout New Zealand. It is one of the few community services you can take part in from the comfort of your own home or in your pyjamas, he says.
‘‘They develop great friendships that can last lifetimes. One person just recently told me about losing her client of 11 years. She felt like a sister had died.’’
Reminding older people about day-to-day things such as taking their pills or eating breakfast is also part of the service.
It has saved many lives in the past through following up unanswered calls to find a client who has fallen or had a stroke, he says.
The scheme benefits the old as well as the young, he says.
‘‘We might have a challenge adapting our service for young people in the future.
‘‘One of the greatest problems in society is loneliness – and it’s not just older people suffering.’’
St John is looking to expand the national service and needs more volunteers.
Mr Bancroft encourages anyone interested to get in touch.
Go to stjohn.org.nz or call 0800 000 606 for information.
Caring caller: Deirdre Scott has made daily calls to people in need for nearly two decades.