ROCKHAMPTON local Sara Kibble knows that by giving a little you can change a lot.
A living example of this week's National Volunteer Week theme "Give a Little, Change a Lot", Sara, 28, lives with autism and up until last year was facing a very uncertain future.
With Australian Red Cross and the support of her mum Debbie, Sara has taken up not one but two volunteer roles and made enormous positive change for herself and for others in her community.
One of those roles is with the Community Visitors Scheme, a program that helps connect older residents with others in the community to help build their social network and aid their mental and physical wellbeing.
Sara's role has been to visit the residents of a local nursing home and offer company through their day.
Australian Red Cross support worker Fiona Hawe said when Sara volunteered to visit the nursing home it was clear she had a lot to give and, more than a year later, she needs almost no support and interacts as a valued member of the team.
"For Sara being part of Red Cross has given her a job to do and she looks at it as a job," Fiona said.
"It gives her that community connection and a purpose and it's something that she really, really enjoys.
"The residents look forward to every Friday because they know Sara's there and Sara's so reliable and sees this as a really, really important role," she said.
Sara's Mum Debbie agrees the volunteer role has given her daughter a sense of purpose, saying Sara has a strong work ethic and great empathy, despite what people understand of autism. Debbie said her daughter had language and speech issues along with issues across her fine and gross motor skills.
"She can find it difficult to do things with her hands and when she's speaking there can be a breakdown between what she's saying and what she's thinking," Debbie said, adding that despite the challenges the people she visited in the nursing home were as patient with her as she was with them.
"It doesn't seem to interrupt their relationship at all," she said. "It's very lovely to see."
"She has a very good work ethic," Debbie said "She's got responsibility and she's accountable because other people are relying on her. She gets out of bed and she really looks forward to the work."
Debbie said without the volunteer role, she could see her daughter was being given few opportunities to be an active member of her community and it was having an impact on her health.
"If it wasn't for the volunteering she would just sit at home and do nothing and because she can't watch TV or do very many things with her hands, her life's very limited," Debbie said.
Ms Hawe said the benefits weren't just for Sara. The people she spends time volunteering with have benefitted as well.
"She's very friendly, she's got a fantastic memory, she knows everybody's name off by heart, she knows what they like, she knows where people live, she really connects to them on a personal level one-on-one," Fiona said.
For Sara it's even more simple. Ask her if she likes what she does and the people she spends her days with and without even uttering a sound, her answer is clear: it's a smile.
- Red Cross programs in Australia and around the world are funded by public donation. To donate visit www.redcross.org.au/good