Brent Copeman about Volunteering; A Challenge with Purpose August 2019


Brent Copeman at the Hospice Processing Centre

Socialising, meeting people, contributing, feeling useful, a challenge; these were some of the ingredients Brent was looking for when he moved to the “big” city Whangarei, 3 years ago.

Brent's first challenge was to explore the maze of streets, widening his circle every day. Now he can find his way in the CBD, Okara, around the loop and most of Kensington without having to look up, which is handy because he is legally blind, not 100%.

He doesn't use any mobility aids, his natural sense of awareness helps him cross streets and use footpaths. Orange cones do pop-up, with parked and moving cars also using those same footpaths.

Next mission; Finding places to be, activities to start, people to meet, and things to do. A regular swim, the loop walk, and the Blind foundation monthly catch-up were all easy to find.

Doing something outside that circle was the next challenge;

Meeting with Volunteering Northland was great for suggestions. I decided to try out The Hospice Shop processing centre. They quickly found a role to suit me, doing the first sorting of donated goods. I obviously can't see the difference between 2 books or 2 shirts, but the difference between a book and a shirt is obvious”.

Staff and volunteers at Hospice made him feel welcome and appreciated. The first few weeks were a learning process for most.

In the beginning someone might say 'could you pick-up those boxes and put them over there', and would not explain where over there was, whereas now they will say put those boxes on the table next to the green cupboard. It didn't take long.

I look forward to volunteering at the shop each week, it has become a rhythm for me. It feels like a job and I have colleagues that appreciate me”.

Brent also is a member of WDC DAG (Disability Advisory Group), assists NRC with promotions and volunteers at Volunteering Northland researching data on the web. Having low vision isn't an issue when using the computer as all he needs is a big screen and a large font.

Brent's tip “If you feel you are stuck, stand up and look for something different outside your comfort zone. There are opportunities and there are ways to find them. Give it a chance and speak out before you give up. If one doesn't work, no problem, go for the next one”.

Story by Bart van der Meer, Volunteering Northland