Judith Smith attends Caversham Baptist Church. This is her story.
Who do you volunteer for and what do you do there?
I am the fill-in receptionist for Servants Health Centre. I cover the lunch break one day a week, plus any days the usual receptionist is away. The centre is a Christian‑based non-profit organisation and Dunedin’s only free healthcare clinic. All the doctors, nurses and counsellors are volunteers. They provide a wide range of services from lifestyle advice to minor surgery. We also sometimes provide small food parcels as our local ‘food share’ charity donates a few items to us each week, plus we provide tea and coffee while patients wait and sandwiches for those who haven’t eaten.
What is your work background?
For most of my working life I was in the hospitality industry but on becoming a Christian I felt I needed to do something else. I was living in Auckland at the time and I found work in the shop at Auckland Hospital. On my return to Dunedin, after two years of unemployment, God intervened and I became a workplace chaplain. I always loved meeting people and being of use.
Volunteering is nothing new for you, is it?
In the past I have volunteered in Hospice, Salvation Army and Save the Children shops, two of which have since closed. I was a Victim Support volunteer for seven years and a volunteer receptionist at a Zulu Bible college in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, for more than four years. When I turned 70 I thought I might stop, but God had other ideas. For the life of me, I can’t remember where I saw the job at Servants advertised. My reason for volunteering was mainly a desire to help where I could and because it makes me feel good. So now I do Servants Health Centre and once a fortnight at our Orphans Aid shop—and hopefully that won’t close!
What part does your faith play in volunteering?
It plays a huge part as I see it as being a servant. In the past I have not been able to talk about my faith or God, especially when I was with Victim Support. But I was able to answer the question, “Why do you do this?” with a brief statement about my faith and leave it up to God. Even if you can’t openly speak of your faith where you volunteer, you can pray, and I think that is a huge privilege. God can do amazing things through our prayers.
How has volunteering at Servants Health Centre impacted you?
Wow, where do I begin? It has made me realise that I must love others as God loves me. We have stressful situations at the clinic as many of the patients are either mentally unwell or on drugs and alcohol. It highlights to me that the amazing people I work alongside are some of the kindest, compassionate and most gifted people I have met. Because I grew up in a home with mental illness and alcohol abuse, I am not always that compassionate toward such people. God being the amazing God that he is—and having a great sense of humour—knew where to put me in order to rub off some of the hard edges! It is a strange thing but sometimes I forget who I was before Christ entered my life at the age of 40. Being at Servants reminds me of that in a positive way, and I trust I am becoming a little more like Christ.
What would you like to say to others considering volunteering?
Do it! No matter what you do, it is rewarding because you are helping to make someone’s life better. It will also give you a sense of well-being and achievement and is good for the brain. I had been a receptionist before but never had had to cope with a computer system like Medtech, but I learnt and I am sure it renewed some of my brain cells! So, go for it.