“Volunteers always receive more than they give.”

In these days of digital communication, such ‘vintage’ items as a parish bulletin could be thought to be outmoded, but in fact a bulletin notice was the catalyst for Taree’s Maria Rohr to take a step away from her comfort zone.

Learning that there was a real need for volunteers in the Diocese of Broome, Maria felt called to respond. Many years earlier, she had volunteered at Wandalgu Hostel, Tardun, in the  Diocese of Geraldton and operated by the Pallottine Fathers.  Maria’s daughter, Anneliese, came  to visit and decided to volunteer –  ending up as Administrator at Kalumburu Mission!

The hostel had a long history of educating boys and girls but Maria recalls, “I was given the unenviable task of closing the hostel at the end of 2004 after 56 years of operation. 

“In February 2011 I went to Broome and was warmly welcomed by the Bishop’s secretary, Janice. I found the Kimberley very warm, but offices and houses were well equipped with cooling systems and fans so volunteers coped well with the heat and dressed appropriately. People don’t always realise there is a winter time  in the Kimberley too.

“I became the receptionist in the Chancery Office – I suspect because on the information form I wrote that I was over running and jumping as I had done plenty of that with the children at Tardun!”

Maria’s role was really one of hospitality as the mission was a place of retreat and formation for diocesan priests, teachers and volunteers. “Rooms had to be prepared for visitors and meals provided, and like any home, there were always maintenance and cleaning tasks.”

After a break at home, Maria signed on again and was assigned to the Warmun Retreat Centre. (Warmun is known by travellers on the Great Northern Highway as Turkey Creek.)

“Here, staff worked together to welcome people, prepare rooms and look after the centre. When Indigenous people came in for drug and alcohol intervention programs, there were meals to be provided. There were accounts to be paid and supplies, including food, to be ordered. Contact was maintained with the diocesan office at Broome.

“Volunteers always receive more than they give. This kept me going back and I would happily go again. I’m not sure I still have the same energy level but I believe I still have something to offer.

“I wear my Kimberley cross deliberately in the hope that someone will ask about it and be inspired to go! Volunteering overseas is popular but the need is great in our own country. I recommend that anyone who is interested takes the plunge and gives it a go.

“You will not be asked to do more than you feel you can and age is not a barrier. You will leave your heart in the Kimberley!”

Over the years, many from the Hunter-Manning region have joined the Kimberley mission for varying periods and in various roles. If you would like to know more about volunteering in the Diocese of Broome, contact Volunteer Co-ordinator, Anneliese Rohr. E volunteers@broomediocese.org or P 08 9192 1060.

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Tracey Edstein Image
Tracey Edstein

Tracey Edstein is the editor of Aurora Magazine, the official magazine of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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