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Nursing expertise boosts support work

Nursing expertise boosts support work

Image of Manaaki Tāngata Victim Support volunteer Fred Wheeler

After retiring from a long career in nursing, Fred wanted a way to continue using his skills. When an ex-colleague suggested he speak to Victim Support, he explored the role and then trained as a volunteer.

At 68 years old, Fred is a man brimming with empathy. Years spent working with people in his role as a psychiatric and general nurse has put him firmly in touch with how to support people, not only with physical issues, but with emotional needs as well.  

“I talk to people in images. If I was talking to you and you had a deep anguish, I’d say something like, ‘If you broke your leg and the bone was coming through we’d see that, it’s very visible and obvious. We can’t see the pain in the mind but it’s very real to the person experiencing it, " Fred says.

I talk about the healing process and the treatment and rehabilitation and relate that to their emotional journey.

Based in the Wairarapa, Fred has been volunteering with Victim Support for the past three years. In the aftermath of the Mosque attacks he flew down to Christchurch with other colleagues to lend a hand to the team on the ground there. He says despite regularly coming into contact with immense grief and suffering, he receives great satisfaction from the work.

“One of the things that makes it worthwhile is even when it’s hard you sometimes see people smile and laugh and you know they are on the way to recovering. The warmth of the gratitude we receive, the thank you, you know you’re making a difference,” he says.

“I also really value that we have a great team here in the Wairarapa – small but strong. Gwen, our team leader, is a great person to talk and offload to. Team meetings are good as well. We all offer advice and guidance and get some back.”

“If anyone is struggling, there’s assistance available from Gwen and the rest of the team. It’s a very supportive environment,” Fred says.

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