All the lonely people: How volunteer Jaydee is changing one life at a time
Volunteer Jaydee (left) with volunteer Jane (right) and their handmade cards for lonely clients
Jaydee may be 77 years old, but she’s not slowing down anytime soon.
A volunteer Kindness Champion with Feros Care, Jaydee spends her time checking in on lonely Feros Care clients.
With her two days per week in the office, she makes wellness calls and sends out special cards – including birthday, anniversary, congratulations and sympathy cards, along with notes from our 1000 Notes of Friendship project, and More the Merrier cards at Christmas time.
“I finished work at 67 and moved up to Queensland, but didn’t know a soul here,” Jaydee explains.
“I thought I’d better do something, so I started volunteering at different organisations. I’m already a Feros Care client, and they were asking for volunteers a few years ago. I’ve been volunteering at the Coolangatta office ever since, and I’ve never had a more fulfilling role.”
Fighting loneliness, one call and card at a time
Jaydee and her fellow Kindness Champions have a long list of lonely clients to call, most of whom have been nominated by their Wellbeing Managers.
After her years of volunteering, Jaydee has now built up a personal rapport with the clients on the list. She says many of them rely on the phone calls as one of their only sources of connection with other people.
“There are just so many lonely people out there. Those whose families live far away, often overseas. Some of our clients have been with their partners for a very long time, over 55 years, never had children – and when that partner passes away, they feel that terribly deeply.
“Some of our clients live in isolated places. One 88-year-old client lives on a farm and is still farming by herself. Her only regular contact is with us. We know what time she comes back to the house for her lunch, and we time our call for that.”
Jaydee explains that COVID also had a terrible impact on many seniors. Those already isolated are still fearful of going out and socialising, compounding their existing loneliness.
“These calls are our way of addressing the loneliness across Australia. Encouraging people to be as busy as possible, and as social as possible. It’s our job to cheer them up and get the best out of them that we possibly can in the time until we call them again.”
After the calls, Jaydee will often also send a card to a client. If they’ve recently baked the perfect sponge cake, she might send a ‘congratulations’ card. If they’ve had to say goodbye to their beloved pet, she’ll send a ‘with sympathy, thinking of you’ card.
“We make all the cards ourselves, so it’s a very personal touch. And we still have letters flooding in from all kinds of people all over Australia thanks to 1000 Notes of Friendship, so if it’s appropriate, I’ll include a note in there as well.”
So many cards to share
The 1000 Notes of Friendship campaign initially aimed to impact 1000 lives and let seniors know they matter. Now, Jaydee says, they’ve had well over 1000 notes come in – and they continue to come in.
Students from schools all over Australia send in letters and cards to be passed onto lonely, anxious and vulnerable seniors. Many organisations and individuals have also been involved – The Royal Flying Doctor Service, for example, sent notes of friendships featuring photos of outback Australia captured from the air.
Kind-hearted people also send through Christmas cards for lonely seniors as part of our annual More the Merrier campaign. When combined with the 1000 notes of kindness, and the handmade special occasion cards made by Jaydee and her team of Kindness Warriors, there’s a lot of regular mail ready to go out to those who need it the most.
Some of the handmade cards created by Kindness Champions
“I’m of a generation where you’ve always gone to the post box at Christmastime, or your birthday, and you open it up and there’s a coloured card in there. And you think – oh, how lovely, someone’s remembered.
“These days, the only thing that comes in the mail is bills. Or I get an SMS or an email. But I don’t want that, I want something personal, something with kindness behind it. And these cards mean so much to those who receive them. People know the effort that’s gone into those, and they keep them.
“We get fantastic feedback all the time. People will ring up and say – can you please tell Amy, for example, that her card made all the difference the other day? Some clients write back with their own notes in return. We send them out to hospitals, clients in respite, and they are hugely popular too.”
Invaluable contact with people
Jaydee has heard it all during her time in this role. She has been on the phone with people wanting to end their lives. She’s also been on the phone with people who can find bright moments in the darkest of times – like one 88-year-old client who sits on the phone and laughs with Jaydee while undergoing chemotherapy treatment.
“You can’t have a time limit on the calls, it’s not possible,” Jaydee says. “It can be anything from 10 minutes to an hour. And often, people pick up the phone and say, ‘I’m so glad you called, I needed someone to talk to.”
“We’re not nurses, we’re not customer service. We’re just there to encourage them to talk to someone. Because so many of these people are not just lonely, they’re also desperate for someone to tell these things to, because they’ve got no one else to talk to.”
Jaydee always tries to steer the conversation into positive places, sharing funny stories and anecdotes.
“When I first started in this role, I used to cry with the clients – until I realised it wasn’t helping them. So you have to help in a different kind of way. You get them laughing. You listen to them. You end the call on a happy note. I have the life experience to know what these people are going through, and I also have a sense of humour, so that helps.”
“But the biggest thing I’ve learned is that the biggest word in the world is love. If you have love, you have everything you need. And that doesn’t need to be romantic love – it can be love for a pet, a friend, anything.”
Help us help more people
At Feros Care, we’re a charity committed to making a real difference to the vulnerable communities we serve.
Every day, people ask us how they can help. And there a few ways to do so.
By making a donation, you can help us implement and scale programs such as the wellness calls and card-sending, bringing hope to Australians unnecessarily grappling with loneliness.
You can make a one-off donation now. Or go easy on your wallet and budget a recurring donation instead. It’s easy, efficient and what’s more, every month, someone will feel less lonely – all because of you.
You can also donate your time – through our volunteer companionship program In Great Company, or by writing one of the much-loved Notes of Friendship.
“I’m always trying to get more people that I know here to volunteer at Feros,” Jaydee sums up. “We need more people because it works. We’re just calling and sending cards, and we see these huge improvements in people’s wellbeing. And there’s so much more we can do.”