A job you can even do in your PJS

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By LAU­REN PRI­EST­LEY

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.

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

Car­ing caller: Deirdre Scott has made daily calls to peo­ple in need for nearly two decades.

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