During National Volunteer Week, 14-20 May, Frontier Services celebrates the work of its Outback Links volunteers who provide hands-on support to hundreds of families in rural and remote Australia every year.
Queenslanders John and Shan Sharp from Mt Tyson on the Darling Downs have discovered there is so much more to volunteering than just helping out.
Four years ago, John Sharp was disabled with arthritis. He could barely walk 300 metres and certainly, he could no longer work for any length of time. Deciding to retire was academic; selling their house and picking up sticks was life-changing.
Shan says they were looking for a way to give back and the Frontier Services booklet at their local Uniting Church kept jumping out at them with Outback Links the catch word.
Despite the fact that Shan had a fractured shoulder at the time, they decided to register as volunteers with Outback Links and three years on their lives are completely different.
John can walk 3km after he’s finished a six hour work day and as often as not, it’s a physical six hours, not sedentary. They both believe it’s thanks to the absence of stress, their relaxed lifestyle and the good vibes they get from helping people on the land. “We get so much out of this. The appreciation for what we do is phenomenal and we’ve met so many wonderful people out here.”
According to Shan, “John looked 80 when we first left home; now he looks his age, 65. The more work we do on properties around rural and remote Australia, the better we feel both physically and spiritually.”
Travelling around from place to place, John and Shan get to see a lot of the country and regularly take breaks along the way just to enjoy the country and rest a while. They get to choose which part of the remote Australia they’d like to visit and which placements they’d like to tackle. Shan says: “John still lives with pain but it’s balanced by the satisfaction he gets from so much achieved.”