Volunteers play a large role at Glaucoma Australia, assisting with many tasks such as assisting with our mail-outs and newsletters, running our support groups, preparing merchandise orders and providing corporate expertise with our business projects.
If you would like to volunteer your time and/or particular skills, please call us on 02 9906 6640 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Stories from some of our dedicated volunteers:
Guek Ling Deborah Kee
Glaucoma Australia (G.A) is reshaping and rebuilding our online resources for people living with glaucoma, families of people with glaucoma, and the medical community alike. As such, we have really appreciated new volunteers such as Deborah, who have assisted in the development of these digital resources.
Deborah came to volunteer for G.A from the Sydney Medical School at the University of Sydney as a student of the Masters of Genetic Counselling Program. Her lecturer told her of the volunteering opportunity and she knew of others who had a positive experience working with us. Her motivation was not only to assist but to gain first-hand experience within the community supporting people with glaucoma. Deborah looked to offer her skills in interviewing, excel, data mining, and content reviewing to help advance Glaucoma Australia’s current projects. One of her key contributions was the data management and organisation of our newly improved “find a professional” tool.
Deborah was able to draw from this experience to enhance her studies within the Masters of Genetic Counselling Program. When asked what was most valuable to her learning when reflecting on her time at GA, Deborah told us that “community placements provide the opportunity for experiential learning, bridging academic knowledge with actual community and lived experiences. Volunteering at Glaucoma Australia has given me insight into the role of local community organisations, as public levers of social assistance, education and advocacy.” She further explained that she benefitted from an increased understanding of the inherent motivations of families and individuals who advocate for a given cause.
Deborah’s volunteer experience made her more aware of the importance of early diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma, she appreciated being part of a driving force working towards providing resources and guidance to both people navigating through initial diagnosis and long-term management.
Thank you, Deborah, for your contributions!
As the volunteer coordinator of the Glaucoma Australia Support Group in Perth W.A., Gaela Hilditch organises very well attended meetings, and has incorporated a new aspect to these meetings. This entails eye practitioners who give informational sessions and offer their time to answer personalised and specific questions from the attendees. “A lot of our members, many of whom are 65 or older, travel long distances by public transport to attend our meetings,” Gaela explains. The eye health professional speaker addition has significantly increased attendance as well as heightened value of the meetings for members of the glaucoma community.
Gaela mentions how fortunate we are to have eye health professionals who are willing to volunteer their time to present on all aspects of glaucoma.
Recently, Professor Bill Morgan spoke about his latest surgical advancement AqueSys, which is an innovative eye drainage technique. One of the first patients to trial the new surgery technique was also in attendance to share her personal experience with the new drainage implant.
A few years ago when I was diagnosed with a chronic disease I hit the internet in search of cures and how to cope. The shock of receiving that news will live with me forever.
I was struck by the power of the Internet and its ability to reach people at their time of need and the comfort it can provide through information and linking people together in similar situations.
I was wondering how I might unitise my technology skills for a good purpose when I bumped into a friend who volunteered for Glaucoma Australia. BINGO, here is the ultimate good cause, the ability to utilise technology to reach people with Glaucoma before real damage is done. I signed up immediately to assist with IT, focusing on content planning for the new website.
Glaucoma Australia is so passionate about spreading the word, it is such a privilege to work with them to prevent our generation and the future generations from suffering from blindness when it could all be managed if caught early.
Meet Margaret Tanner, 96, who arrives on a weekly basis to assist us in supporting the glaucoma community. She even manages to fit in a round of golf each week, being a foundation member of a local club. We asked Margaret to tell us a bit about herself and her time at Glaucoma Australia.
Margaret, why did you decide to volunteer your time to GA and when did you start coming?
I had a friend, Mary, who had been volunteering for Glaucoma Australia for years and she suggested I come along to help out. I was keen to volunteer somewhere and, because I had previously been diagnosed with glaucoma myself, I thought this might be a good thing to do. I started volunteering in late 2002, nearly 15 years ago.
What tasks were you given in the early days? Has much changed in what you do?
There has always been something to keep us busy and the things we do haven’t changed much. Organising the newsletter mail-outs requires a lot of envelope stuffing and there are always merchandise orders from Friends and Supporters to fill. We post a lot of Christmas cards (we do that job for over four months a year) and eye care practitioners request patient information materials - we send those out as well. We have the mundane stamping envelopes with “postage paid”, counting brochures into bundles and filling out raffle ticket stubs; but some of us are in charge of projects like organising supplies for the introductory mailing program or making sure the Post Office receives mail in the right format.
What keeps you coming back?
I enjoy the work and the company - it’s like a social outing.
Have you made long term friendships during your time at Glaucoma Australia?
Yes I have. I meet some of the people between our regular volunteer days and we do other activities together. I also exchange birthday cards and/or Christmas cards (Glaucoma Australia’s of course!) to keep in touch with those aren’t able to come in anymore.
What is your most memorable moment?
This would be my 90th birthday, where we had morning tea in the office and then lunch at a local hotel! There was the most delicious cake at the morning tea and later, all the volunteers and staff went to lunch, where good company and food helped me celebrate my birthday, and Brian’s, another volunteer. The annual lunch, to celebrate the end of the year is always a great day as well!
Dr Simon Skalicky
Dr Simon Skalicky FRANZCO, PhD, BSc (Med), MPhil, MMed, MBBS (Hons 1) is a federal Councillor and Chair of the Ophthalmology Liaison Committee for Glaucoma Australia. He is a glaucoma and cataract subspecialist with posts at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital and Royal Melbourne Hospital. He undertook a subspeciality fellowship in the department of Ophthalmology at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom where he studied and practiced advanced glaucoma surgery at the prestigious Addenbrooke’s Glaucoma Unit. Dr Skalicky is a Clinical Senior Lecturer at the Universities of Sydney and Melbourne. An advocate of evidence-based best practice, he is widely published and actively involved in training medical students, Ophthalmology registrars and glaucoma subspecialty fellows. He is an active clinical researcher in the field of glaucoma, particularly interested in evaluating new treatments from the perspective of the patients’ experience and their quality of life.
Dr Skalicky is a tireless worker and volunteer for Glaucoma Australia. He is committed to supporting all people with glaucoma, their relatives and care providers. He believes the advocacy and information provided by Glaucoma Australia empowers Australians to make better choices for their health. He is optimistic that the opportunities afforded by new technologies and treatments in glaucoma will translate to a better future for people with glaucoma and their families. He hopes these will promote earlier detection of the disease, increase tolerability of treatment, improve patients’ experience, and ultimately reduce visual loss from glaucoma in Australia and around the world.
Dr Skalicky consults privately at Eye Surgery Associates in East Melbourne, Malvern and Vermont South.
Meet George Collins, a long-term volunteer who spoke to us about his experience of working for Glaucoma Australia.
Where do you live, George?
I live in Merrylands, a western suburb of Sydney, not too far from Parramatta. It takes about 90 minutes travel by public transport to get to the Glaucoma Australia office.
Why did you decide to volunteer?
I have glaucoma myself, and a strong family history, and I hoped I might lessen the risk to my children and our coming generations if I supported glaucoma education and fundraising for research.
How long have you had glaucoma?
I was found to have elevated intraocular pressure in 1979. With the use of various drops, laser and more recently, surgery my glaucoma has been managed for over 30 years.
When did you start volunteering at Glaucoma Australia?
I learned about Glaucoma Australia, then called “The Glaucoma Foundation”, in 1992 and have been coming ever since.
What jobs were you doing in the early days and has much changed with the organisation since that time?
Many of the tasks were similar to the present day but they certainly were more time-consuming and ‘hands on’. The bulk mail had to be delivered to the Post Office, using a hand trolley - now it is picked up. Almost all the literature had to be hand-folded, in a very cramped work area. Today we have self-adhesive stamps, postage-paid envelopes and folding machines to lighten the load. As the organisation has grown we have needed bigger premises and this has made working conditions much more comfortable.
What keeps you coming back?
Volunteers are hard to come by and even one person missing during a busy period can make a difference. I also enjoy the social contact with the other volunteers. The friendships I have made have been great and I enjoy catching up with those I don’t see so often.
What is your memorable moment?
It would have to be the awarding of the OAM to our co-founder Kath Holmes in 1996 in recognition of her dedication to the glaucoma cause.
Do you have any final thoughts?
There is always room for more volunteers!
Judith Smith is one of our very first volunteers who, after nearly 27 years, still volunteers each week for Glaucoma Australia.
When did you start as a volunteer?
I started about two years after Kath Holmes formed the Glaucoma Foundation so have been coming for about 27 years.
Why did you decide to volunteer your time to Glaucoma Australia?
I had been told I had glaucoma and had heard Dr (now Associate Professor) Goldberg speaking about it on the radio. I was not quick enough to get pen and paper so two years later he was talking again and asking for volunteers. I wanted to help so I rang and offered my time.
What did you do?
When I first started I was on call to fill in during the busy times. Then I went in every fortnight and now, every week. In the early days the space was small and there were always a lot of boxes of material. We would sit close together and would be very busy but everyone was very friendly. We even had people coming from Newcastle to help out. Then we grew in numbers and moved to another place with more room. When Glaucoma Australia first started there were fundraising events to raise money. Then we started selling Christmas cards. Come June, the volunteers get excited wondering what our Christmas cards are going to look like.
What about now?
The number of people who are learning about glaucoma and how to manage it has grown so we are still busy sending out materials, especially to those people who have recently become Friends and Supporters.
What advice can you give the readers?
Firstly if you are a Friend and Supporter of Glaucoma Australia, even if you move to another part of the world, keep your subscription going so you can receive your newsletter- there is always new information.
Brian first heard about volunteering when he accompanied his wife Barbara to a senior’s information event in mid-2008. Not long after he responded to a call from Glaucoma Australia to help with a Glaucoma News mail-out. “The rest is history” according to Brian as he has been travelling from Castle Hill in Sydney’s Hills District to our office on a weekly and sometimes twice-weekly basis ever since.
Brian helps out in many ways and his expertise as a retired banker has been invaluable. He ensures donations and merchandise payments are efficiently processed, undertaking accounts receivable/payable tasks with great enthusiasm. Brian is definitely the best person to talk to if any financial calculations are required. Brian also works in the Sydney Charity Greeting Card Shop alongside Barbara and has a regular Meals on Wheels shift in his local community.
Brian says his most memorable moment with Glaucoma Australia occurred this year when he and Barbara were asked to participate in filming for the BIG Breakfast TV ad with Andrew Voss. The ad was shown nationally for over a month and Brian reckons it was a great experience seeing how this type of production comes together. Most of all though, Brian enjoys working to make sure the people who need help as a result of having glaucoma receive the information they are looking for. He says he looks forward to the day’s tasks and the company of Staff and Volunteers as it is a very friendly atmosphere and people are always made welcome.
Brian, Barbara and their son, Warwick, continue to provide outstanding support to people with glaucoma through their work with Glaucoma Australia.