Volunteering gateway to paid work

Helping out . . . Glenys Geytenbeek helps in the kitchen at the celebration of the International...
Helping out . . . Glenys Geytenbeek helps in the kitchen at the celebration of the International Volunteer Day at the Dunedin Public Library on Wednesday. Photo by Tim Miller
More than most, Glenys Geytenbeek knows the value of volunteering.

For the past 18 years, Mrs Geytenbeek has been working at Volunteering Otago finding volunteering opportunities for people with mental illnesses and this year will be her last.

Starting as a volunteer, Mrs Geytenbeek said she accidentally slipped into her job.

''We were talking about maybe getting some funding to help people with mental illness and when we did get the funding I was asked to take up the position.''

''I was thinking `I'm just looking after people in a very small way I'm not sure I can do it', but then as I was walking home I thought `actually I have nothing to lose', so I went ahead and took the position,'' she said.

The main aim of the job was to help people with mental illnesses get into volunteering to help with their treatment, she said.

''Volunteering is one way to get people to go out and say `hey I'm just like everyone else'.''

There had been many ups and downs during her time in the role with more than a few bright moments, she said.

''There was one young man who had been working with me for quite a long time and I had not heard from him for a while, then one day I walked into a shop and he was there serving me.''

Once people with mental illnesses were able to get out and volunteer they realised they were able to get out and do things, Mrs Geytenbeek said. It was not the illness which hindered people, rather it was other people's perceptions of mental illness, she said.

In her time in the job, Mrs Geytenbeek estimated she had seen hundreds of people use volunteering to help themselves.

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