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Volunteer dream team making Clarence a brighter place for all

PAUL Wales always knew that he wanted to volunteer his time one day, but working in the busy retail sector on the Sunshine Coast six days a week left him little time to pursue his passion.

In early 2019, Mr Wales and his wife moved to Tasmania to retire.

They soon started making enquiries around their local community, and by April, Mr Wales was a fully-fledged volunteer with the Clarence Community Volunteer Service (CCVS), run by Clarence City Council.

These days, despite never being much of a gardener himself, Mr Wales volunteers as a duo with 32-year-old Damien Miller, maintaining gardens for six clients of the CCVS.

“I’d never volunteered before except for my kids’ sporting clubs, but it was always something I wanted to do once I had the time,” Mr Wales said.

“We come to mow the lawns or trim bushes, but we always end up having a cuppa and a yarn with the clients.

“It’s come to be one of my favourite parts of the week.”

Mr Miller – known as Damo to his friends – lost his job early in the COVID pandemic and reached out to the CCVS to help fill his newfound spare time.

He now works every Tuesday in partnership with Mr Wales in the Clarence community.

Sue Miller, Damien’s mother, said that volunteering had been more than just a way to pass the hours for him.

“Damo is deaf and non-verbal, which can sometimes make it difficult for him to get a foot in the door with employers,” she said.

“Through his volunteering with the CCVS, Damo has regained a sense of fulfilment and purpose that he lost when his old work closed down, and has also gained invaluable experience dealing with members of the public and in gardening and labouring work.”

Mr Wales was initially unsure of how he would communicate with Damo.

He turned up to his first session with pre-written notes in his pocket saying things like “good job Damien” or “those weeds can go in the bin now”, but he said that he’s come to learn just as much from Damo as Damo had learned from him.

“Damien just has the best smile, and we work really well together,” Mr Wales said.

“Damien is an excellent lip reader, and we work well as a team.

“I normally mow, and Damien handles the weeds.

“It’s not a chore and I’m certainly no hero, but I really think that if everyone just gave a small amount of their time to help others, the world would be a much better place.”

Clarence City Council Mayor Alderman Doug Chipman said he was moved to hear of Mr Wales and Damo’s story of volunteering in Clarence.

“The CCVS plays an important role in keeping people connected with their communities as well as allowing people to have greater independence,” he said.

“Volunteering adds real meaning to life, something that has to be experienced to truly understand.”

If you are interested in volunteering and would like to find out more about what is involved, phone the CCVS team on 6217 9630 or email ccvs@ccc.tas.gov.au.