Wandering volunteers - Madonna Magazine

Wandering volunteers

Rosie Hoban 20 August 2019

Grey nomads Liz and Patrick Dwyer combine their love of travel with a love of giving back to communities.

Liz and Patrick Dwyer call themselves grey nomads. But they are more like wandering volunteers, travelling around the country and putting their hand up to help out wherever they go.

West Australians Liz, 73 and Patrick 68, pulled up stumps a few years ago and set off in their caravan to see more of the country. Now, when they arrive in a new spot, they head to Mass and invariably find themselves on a reading roster, doing jobs that come up in the parish or filling a shift at the local Vinnies store.

The couple, who have four children, were both raised in families where volunteering was part of the Catholic culture. They continued that tradition when their own children were growing up by working on the school canteen, mowing school and Church lawns, joining Catholic Women’s League and, for Patrick, the Knights of the Southern Cross.

Example of Jesus

No matter what the organisation, or cause, their volunteering is always about following the example of Jesus and using the gifts God has given them.

Liz, a retired nurse and Patrick, who worked in supermarkets for 20 years, love wandering around Western Australia and lived in Katanning for many years, then Busselton and even in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. They hitched up the van and took to the road after their family was grown. They have a base of sorts in Manjimup where one of their sons lives. They stay in Manjimup between their nomading and house sitting which takes them to the other side of the country, mostly in NSW.

‘We got very involved with the Catholic Church in Manjimup and then we up and go. But while we are there we do what we can and that includes working at the local Vinnies’, Liz said.

During their tips east to NSW, particularly around the Wagga area, Liz volunteers where her friend does a regular weekend Vinnies shift. She is always welcomed in towns they visit because finding volunteers can be difficult and she and Patrick ‘know the ropes’.

Motivated to help

Patrick relishes the opportunity to help someone who might need a hand and says his Catholic faith inspires and motivates him to give his time for others.

‘There are so many great examples we have to follow from the Good Samaritan to Mother Therese and the founder of St Vincent de Paul Frédéric Ozanam’, Patrick said.

In Manjimup Liz is on the local Conference Committee that determines who gets financial support.

‘You get a glimpse of the isolated, lonely and difficult lives so many people live, people who are just around the corner from us,’ Liz said. ‘You don’t have to look far to meet someone who needs a hand.’

The pair finds out local Mass times when they arrive in a new place and stay to meet people after Mass.

They enjoy meeting others who share their love of God and it reinforces for them that they have a great deal in common with people who are strangers.

Blaze aid

In recent Victorian trips they were so moved by the drought stories they heard each day on their radio that they joined a Blaze Aid gathering near Kilmore and Patrick helped rebuild fences while Liz helped cook and feed the volunteer workers.

‘Volunteering is a way to live out your faith and what you believe. We just try to do what we can and to use the gifts we have been given’, Patrick said.

Liz reckons they might have to ‘settle down’ one day when they can no longer manage the demands of a ‘grey nomading’ life. But until then you might spot them at Church or behind the counter at a Vinnies store. They will be the busy couple with all the time in the world for someone who needs a hand.  

For more information about the organisation in your state or territory, go to: www.vinnies.org.au