Robyne volunteers with our Teleyarn service, where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander volunteers call Indigenous people who benefit from having a yarn with someone, generally older people who live alone and don’t have a lot of social connections.
Robyne knows how important those calls can be, because she was one on the receiving end of them, and she attributes them to saving her life. This is Robyne’s story of how having a yarn has made a difference.
About three and a half years ago I was in a very dark place. I was very isolated in a one-bedroom unit and I couldn’t go outside. And I wanted my life to be over. If somebody would have dug a hole for me I would have grabbed my pillow and got in it.
One day I got a phone call and I answered it and it was ‘Hello, Rob, this is Deb from Red Cross’. I said, ‘I don’t have any money to volunteer and I can’t give blood’ because I felt that’s what Red Cross does. And she went ‘No, I work at Red Cross and I’m ringing you because you’re an Aboriginal Elder’.
She went ‘How are you doing?’ and I went ‘Not good’. I didn’t want to talk to her because I didn’t know who she was. And she’s bright and chirpy and I thought ‘I can’t deal with bright and chirpy people’. She said to me ‘What are you doing tomorrow?’ and I said, ‘Same as today, nothing’, and she went ‘Okay. I’ll see you about 10.00’.
So, at 10 o’clock there was a knock on my door and Deb came and she brought another Elder, Stella. And they were there for hours. They put the kettle on, we had a coffee, we had a talk about my situation. I was in tears, they were in tears.
Then from the next week I used to get the phone calls every Wednesday and I’d have different people ring up and say ‘Hi, Rob, how are you doing? How is your day? Are you feeling better?’ and they’d just generally ask you questions and they were so nice.
I looked forward to those calls, and I got them for two years. I would sit there and look at the phone and wait for it to ring. So, Deb saved my life.
Then she got me to do the volunteering here with TeleYarn. So, it’s made such a big difference to my life. You know I didn’t want to live anymore, so it’s helped me tremendously.
Red Cross helped me improve my life, and I know how much I looked forward to those phone calls, so, now I can return the favour. And I think because they helped me I need to pay back.
(When) volunteering I get a feeling that I’ve made somebody’s day a little brighter. I’ve gone and made a lot of friends out of volunteering, and it makes me feel good to think that I can change somebody’s day.
So, if I can make those calls and make one person happy with one phone call you know I think I’ve done something good.
Thanks to generous Red Cross supporters like you, we can improve the mental health and wellbeing of people who feel isolated and alone, connecting them to their community and building their sense of belonging.