Healing through volunteering

graphic of leaves
Two women looking at the camera smiling. They are standing in front of a blue wall with a white tree decal

Volunteering offers so many opportunities, and for Liz Gough, the experience has been life-changing.

Liz spontaneously developed epilepsia partialis continua at 53 and required surgery to save her life. The surgery left her with some impairment; she still suffers seizures, partial paralysis, aphasia – which affects how Liz communicates – and fatigue.

While Liz has embraced the chance at life and tackled the road to recovery with robustness, she has also felt a sense of loneliness and isolation on her journey.

So, when NDIS partner in the community Intereach suggested Liz integrate her rehabilitation therapies with volunteering, Liz discovered a life-changing opportunity she embraced. Liz is now a regular volunteer at the Deniliquin Ladies Group, which meets every Friday.

Liz uses the meetings not only to forge wonderful friendships but as rehabilitation and therapy sessions to continue her post-operative recovery.

Liz now conducts a regular storytelling for the group, which helps her to improve her verbal communication skills. This involves a word game where Liz chooses a word and tells a story of interest to the group.

The group supports women who are over 65, are frail, aged, have a disability or are socially isolated.

Intereach Group Leader Wendy Johnston said Liz had flourished in the safe space environment.

“Liz continually builds on her verbal skills with the group, and the word game has been a great example of bringing lots of people into a conversation. Depending on the magic word, we get lots of great stories and spontaneity in the group. It has been a lot of fun,” Wendy said.

Liz is married to Bruce, and they have two wonderful children.

The Deniliquin local has embraced the opportunity to become a volunteer and has welcomed the person-centred and strengths-based approach to supporting her recovery.

Liz has loved the opportunity to engage and forge strong friendships – so much so the group say it’s not the same without a story from Liz.

Liz’s recovery is continuing, and with the support of the NDIS she receives home and community access support and allied health assistance with Occupational and Speech therapy – but some days are more challenging than others, however, the group environment has made a significant difference.

“It feels like I am getting back to my old self and feeling like I have made a change for myself and others,” Liz said.

Liz has a positive outlook: “Live life to the fullest; you never know what’s going to happen next”.


Image: Intereach Volunteer Team Leader, Sarah with Liz.