Shining a light on Wingecarribee’s unseen and unsung heroes, meet Jolanda, Red Cross angel of comfort
Always on-call for Psych First Aid at Emergency Evacuation (e-vac) centres, Red Cross volunteer Jolanda brings comfort to community members in times of crisis and distress. “If I’m honest, it feels a little selfish to go around helping people because it feels so good to make a difference to their situation,” Jolanda says.
Only recently settled in Wingecarribee, from the Illawarra, Jolanda has a real heart for the “kind and generous community” she says she has found here. And we are blessed to have her! Being part of this year’s Angels in our Town parade will be new to Jolanda too. “People tend to think Red Cross is all bake-sales and cake stalls and this is a wonderful opportunity for us to be seen in a whole new light among the frontline volunteers going out into the community,” Jolanda says.
Called to serving the community in this way later in life, Jolanda pursued a university degree with a minor in psychology once her boys had grown up. An ad in the paper for Red Cross training seemed like an opportunity to apply her new skills for good and give something back to community which holds such great value to her. “I love belonging to what feels like a big country town,” she says.
In emergency situations where she’s surrounded by people who’ve been displaced, Jolanda is mindful that any one of us could find ourselves in their position, without warning. “My involvement in natural disaster relief has impressed upon me that we can never know if today might be the day we are impacted,” Jolanda says. “Recognising that it could be me walking in their shoes is what moves me to reach out to a person in crisis with genuine empathy and compassion.”
Jolanda’s crisis support skills have become second nature. “I quickly pick up on subtle cues that someone is stressed and don’t hesitate to have a little chat which can create a safe space for them to open up about what’s going on for them,” Jolanda says. “I did this with a young woman who seemed ok, at the e-vac centre following Cyclone Debbie, and she cried as she opened up about how hard it had been,” Jolanda says. “When I shared something funny that just came to me she burst out laughing and hugged me saying ‘ you don’t know how much I needed to feel normal again!”
Once a trusted connection is made, Jolanda can connect the person with whatever support they need.
“There was another situation where I noticed a man had the 100-yard stare and was awfully quiet. When I asked if I could get him anything he said a bottle of water but the longer I listened, he revealed he’d been trapped by floodwaters and hadn’t had fresh water for a week!” Along with the requested water, Jolanda arranged for a mental health nurse to sit with him and arrange some support. “The training just kicks in,” she says.
We can be grateful to this Angel in our town for caring enough to volunteer her time to consistently showing up to be with people in their darkest hour. “Too many people are reluctant to admit they’re not coping because our culture tends to applaud ‘pushing on’, so it’s important to take the time to just be there with them as a reassuring presence and let them know that it’s not only ok, it’s a normal reaction to feel the way they do when they’ve suffered a loss or shock,” Jolanda says.
It’s our community’s turn to step-out and show-up to shower gratitude on the unseen and unsung heroes like Jolanda who never fail to be there for our community when we are at our most vulnerable. Make the 2023 Angels in Our Town parade along Bong Bong Street at Bowral your priority to be a part of so that we can shower our dedicated first responders, volunteers and service personnel with our appreciation.
Angels in Our Town
(the Southern Highlands says THANKYOU! to our unsung heroes)
Saturday 2 December 2023
7:00pm Parade to set off from the corner of Banyette St, along Bong Bong St to Corbett Gardens.
7:30pm Free family Concert in Corbett Gardens.
Pack a picnic to enjoy in the gardens. Many local eateries will be open for food and drink.
Plan your visit: www.angelsinourtown.org.au