THE COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on the whole planet in ways as unexpected as the virus itself.
I wrote recently about the effect the pandemic was having on the volunteer sector within our communities. This week I spoke to an amazing local volunteer in the veterans area to get some insight into what he does but also to see how his valuable and necessary volunteer work has been affected by the pandemic.
Nambucca Heads resident Bob Crisp has been the welfare officer of the Nambucca Heads RSL Sub Branch for 14 years. The work Bob does, all unpaid, is vital to the sick, hospitalised or very elderly veterans here in Nambucca Heads.
Originally from Crookwell, Bob has called the Nambucca Valley home for the past 20 years. A former soldier, Bob went on to have a career with what was formerly known as the Electricity Commission until his retirement. Bob also worked on a deer farm at Thumb Creek before moving into town.
The duties of a Sub Branch welfare officer are many and varied and include advice to veterans and their families regarding entitlements, face to face visits and welfare checks on veterans and their families, and the general provision of welfare services.
Bob Crisp does all that and then goes beyond his mandated duties to ensure that Nambucca Heads veterans, particularly those who may be ill or elderly and alone, have someone they can call for assistance or even just a cup of tea and a chat.
For many of our veterans Bob is the first point of contact with directing them in the right direction for health care, mental health care, government services and even funerals.
It is RSL Sub Branch welfare officers who do the 'heavy lifting' when it comes to caring for our veterans. It would not be rare for Bob to be providing comfort and literally provide a hand to hold during a veteran's last moments. Just the act of sitting with someone when they are at their worst can make all the difference.
Often Bob has arranged meals and home care services on behalf of folk who are no longer able to cook for themselves or do their housework. There have even been occasions where Bob has ventured to Sydney to assist veterans getting back home to the Nambucca Valley after major surgery.
Like many in the volunteer sector, the work Bob does has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 restrictions. Bob is in the age group where he falls into the COVID-19 high risk category himself so it has been far from business as usual. The only way Bob has been able to reach out to those who need him has been by telephone.
Although Bob fully understands the requirement for the restrictions, it is those veterans in nursing homes who he is not currently able to visit that he worries about the most. Some of these people had come to rely on Bob's cheesy smile coming through the door on a regular basis and now all he is able to do is call the facilities and ask after their welfare.
Bob Crisp derives great satisfaction from being able to help those who are unable to help themselves and wholeheartedly recommends the position to anyone who has the time and the right temperament.
Bob is a hardworking volunteer who seeks nothing in return for the work the he does but admits that sometimes the word 'thank you' from the veterans he helps can be priceless. It should be of comfort to all of us that Bob is out there in the community selflessly working to assist those who have served this country in the armed services, many in wartime.
If everyone had the level of compassion for their fellow man that Bob Crisp displays, the world would be a better place for all.