Volunteer happy to be in the driver’s seat for Ability Centre

Ability Centre WA is a non-profit disability service provider that has been supporting Western Australian families and people living with cerebral palsy, autism and other physical and intellectual disabilities for more than 60 years. John Wirth has been volunteering for Ability Centre WA as one of their bus drivers for three years and really enjoys it.

What did you do before you retired?

I was a stock and station agent and livestock auctioneer for over 50 years.

What attracted you to volunteering for Ability Centre WA?

My daughter Andrea has worked for Ability Centre for a long time, first as a therapist and then as a consultant on the project which manages the rolling out of the NDIS for Ability Centre’s customers. She suggested I volunteer here after I retired.

You transport customer-related equipment between sites. Why did you choose this activity?

I enjoy driving, and when I was considering what I would do after I retired, my daughter suggested this particular role.

It must be very gratifying to know you’re helping people with a disability. Do you feel you’re making a difference to the people Ability Centre supports?

I like to think that the small part I play definitely makes a difference. I’m in awe of the work that the organisation does. I had no idea about the breadth of services that were offered before I started volunteering.

Did you have to learn some new skills to take on this volunteer work?

I underwent orientation and was showed how to use the hoists in the van safely. As standard driver’s licenses cover driving this particular van, I didn’t need to get a new license.

What does a typical driving shift look like for you?

I generally arrive at the main site in Coolbinia early in the morning, load up customer equipment into the van and then drive to Malaga. Once in Malaga I unload, reload any new equipment needing to go back to Coolbinia and then return.

How often do you help out as a volunteer?

I volunteer four mornings a week, and it generally takes me about 90 minutes each day.

Are there social benefits to your volunteer work?

I have enjoyed getting to know the staff in the Customised Product Technology division at both the Coolbinia and Malaga sites.

What are the joys of being a volunteer?

It has provided me with a routine to follow, which I think is a very valuable thing to have once you retire.

How would you sell people on the idea of volunteering?

If you’re thinking of volunteering but don’t know where to start, let those in your own network know as they may have some good ideas for you to explore.

Are there any messages you want to share with others to help them become more disability focused and inclusive?

Volunteering exposes you to more, which ultimately leads you to be more understanding.

Click on the link to find out more about Ability Centre, supporter activities or volunteering opportunities.