Levin Home for War Veterans volunteer Stuart Beissel believes he gets as much out of his weekly visits to the home as the residents do.
“I love to talk and I love to listen to people. I find volunteering so rewarding, just listening to the residents here,” he says.
The retired primary school principal began volunteering at the home a few months ago when, after 40 years of teaching, he retired and moved from Taranaki to Levin with his wife.
He says it wasn’t long before he put his name forward at the Volunteer Resource Centre.
“I didn’t really want to volunteer with children – it was time for change after 40 years working with them! Instead, I said I’d like to be involved with older people.”
Levin Home for War Veterans contacted Stuart, who agreed to visit on Thursdays and offer companionship to residents in the hospital wing.
“I liked the idea of working with a rest home,” he says.
“My grandfather was a war veteran, so that was also a nice connection.”
Now Stuart also comes in once a fortnight on Mondays to work with academy students from Horowhenua College taking part in a training programme set up by the home.
“It’s a great system – the students get to learn about dementia, health and ageing, things like that, and the residents enjoy their company. With my background in education, I feel I have something to offer there.”
Levin Home manager Jenny Hodgen says volunteers like Stuart are vital to the home.
“The diverse range of skills volunteers bring makes such a difference to the residents here – some run creative workshops for them, others offer their woodworking skills and still others simply donate their time. We love seeing the way residents respond to their energy.”
The home is currently looking for volunteer piano players to provide some musical entertainment for residents, says Jenny.
“There are three pianos here crying out to be used, so please don’t be shy!”