Angels bring light to elderly residents

Residents and staff at Hammondcare Horsley refer to them simply as "our angels".

For two days each week, Carmel Martin and Maria Mendicino make the trip to the Illawarra nursing home where, along with 70 other volunteers, they lead songs and dances, bingo games and craft activities.

"We do call them our angels," Hammondcare's volunteer leader, Barb Criddle, said.

"We are just so grateful for them, they're just so valuable to us and we really acknowledge how much of a difference it makes to the contentment of our residents."

For all their donated time, Mrs Martin and Ms Mendicino say they've reaped plenty in return.

Today is International Volunteers Day, honouring the efforts and contributions of volunteers throughout the community.

Mrs Martin, whose involvement with Hammondcare goes back to when the Horsley facility first opened three years ago, has a long history of working with the elderly and vulnerable families.

"It's lovely - when I leave, I can't wait to come back," she said.

"It's two days a week at the moment and during that time we do some cooking, we go for walks, bus trips, sing along to music or just sit down and talk with them.

"For them, they love it. I just break down because it's so beautiful to see them happy. I think I get more enjoyment out of it than they might sometimes, I just love it."

Hammondcare's clientele includes men and women from varying religious and cultural backgrounds, most living with dementia.

Ms Mendicino, who is originally from Brazil, speaks fluent English and Portuguese and can understand Italian and Spanish - meaning she can connect with the residents on many levels.

She urged other Illawarra residents to take up volunteering.

"I just wanted to do something for the community and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone else," she said.

"It's very satisfying to put a smile on their faces. I sometimes like to say silly things or dance in a silly way, just to make them laugh. It's very satisfying."

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