Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Perth volunteers helping in Echuca-Moama

Perth retirees Gary and Julie Cross enjoy volunteering in the Echuca-Moama region.

IVY WISE June 3, 2014 3:40am

Perth retirees Gary and Julie Cross.

Perth retirees Gary and Julie Cross’ visit to Echuca has turned into a life-changing experience, not only for the couple, but for the people they have met.

The couple, who were nearly a year into their caravanning trip around Australia, arrived in Echuca on March 20, only planning to stay a few days.

More than two months later, they are still here.

‘‘Every time we go into town, the people are so friendly, so we thought ‘What can we do to volunteer?’,’’ Mr Cross said.

‘‘We wanted to give something back,’’ Mrs Cross said.

They contacted Campaspe Shire, who put them onto some volunteer work at Echuca library, meals on wheels and the shire’s planned activity group.

Basing themselves at their campsite at Christies beach, the couple spends three days a week volunteering with the group, which organises activities for the shire’s elderly residents.

‘‘On Tuesdays, we take a group of independent citizens on bus trips to different places, our Wednesday group is at the (Echuca planned activity) centre, where we play games and sit and talk with the residents; some of them have had dementia or strokes, so we do things to keep their minds active; and Thursdays is our Lockington group. We have a lot of fun with them,’’ Mrs Cross said.

‘‘It’s good for them to have this social interaction. For some, this is their social life.’’

‘‘The highlight for me has been talking to these people and hearing their stories,’’ Mr Cross said.

‘‘Sitting down one-on-one with them, I’ve heard some magnificent stories and sometimes they might air their grievances.’’

Planning to leave Echuca next week to continue their journey, the couple have delayed their departure so they can accompany a group of residents on a tour of the MCG on June 10.

‘‘Some of the clients wanted us to go with them, so we couldn’t say no,’’ Mr Cross said.

‘‘None of them want us to leave.

‘‘One of them wants to build a fence around our campsite so we can’t leave and another said he was going to slash our tyres.

‘‘This is the humour of some of these people.

‘‘The people we’ve met has blown us away. They’ve become friends.’’

The couple, both aged 60, said they had become attached to the residents and volunteering with the activity group had changed their lives.

‘‘The experience has been over and above what we expected and something we will continue into the future wherever we go,’’ Mr Cross said.

‘‘It’s not just self-satisfying.

‘‘It’s helping the people you meet.’’

Mrs Cross encouraged other visitors or residents to do the same.

‘‘If people have time on their hands, go and volunteer,’’ she said.

‘‘We’ve met such mind-blowing, beautiful people.

‘‘At the end of the day, it feels good knowing you’ve put a smile on someone’s face.

‘‘Through this experience, I’ve learnt to accept people for who they are and just enjoyed the pleasure of spending time with an individual.’’

From Echuca, the will travel to Coffs Harbour before heading to to Queensland.

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