Best friends turned St John WA volunteers thank work for lifting their spirits during mental health struggles

Anna CoxGeraldton Guardian
Best friends Natasha and Jordi have found purpose in volunteer work.
Camera IconBest friends Natasha and Jordi have found purpose in volunteer work. Credit: Supplied

While most people barely have time for extracurricular activities outside the usual nine to five, two Mid West mates are finding the time to give back to the community with St John WA.

Geraldton’s Natasha Alymore has been a country ambulance volunteer at the St John WA Geraldton sub-centre for 10 years.

When asked why she volunteers, Ms Alymore said her reasons were selfish.

“People often looked shocked when I say that, because of course I started out wanting to help others, but I’ve realised that at the end of the day, volunteering is a selfish choice for me,” she said.

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Daily learning opportunities, having a tangible, positive impact and the guaranteed good feeling are a few of the reasons she keeps coming back.

Ms Alymore said her advice to others thinking about volunteering was to just do it, but understand the role is a privilege.

“It is a privilege to be in someone else’s life — whether it’s the worst moment of their life, their last moment, or sometimes even their first — not everyone gets to experience that, and I feel privileged to be part of it,” she said.

While Ms Alymore ran into a period of mental health challenges two years into her tenure with St John WA, she cites the sense of community and friendships for helping her through.

“I nearly gave up my role, I was scared that my team would see me and treat me differently. Most of all, I was scared they’d hate me for putting them through that,” she said. “Thankfully, they were incredible. They helped me find my feet again, with a lot of love and hard work.”

The experience with St John WA led Ms Alymore to become a volunteer support officer on top of her regular ambo duties, to help others with mental health issues.

One of the lives touched by her unwavering support was long-time friend Jordi, who does not want her last name used for personal reasons.

After losing a family member unexpectedly and feeling unsatisfied in her job, Jordi moved to Kalbarri in 2022.

With a long-time affinity for paramedicine and feeling disconnected living in a new town, Ms Alymore suggested Jordi try volunteering to gauge a potential career move.

Jordi always thought about studying paramedicine, but being in her 30s she was hesitant to go back to university.

By the end of 2023, Jordi had applied to study paramedicine at university and was crowned rookie of the year.

“I don’t think anyone signs up to volunteer for the accolades, but when your efforts are so valued in your community, it makes the role of volunteering even more special.”

Jordi’s advice to those interested in volunteering is a simple “just do it”.

“If you’ve ever been even a little interested in the idea, just sign up,” Jordi said. “Your only regret, like mine, will be wishing that you’d done it sooner.”

This week is National Volunteer Week.

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