Volunteer Feature: Margaret Hopkins

This week we are joining in the celebration of National Volunteer Week with many organisations across Australia to thank those who have given so much to YPRL and our local community.

Margaret Hopkins, our Chat and Connect Facilitator at Ivanhoe Library, is our featured volunteer today. She brings people together to have conversations on life issues at both the community and global levels.  A big part of why she volunteers with YPRL is to encourage connections between people.

Name: Margaret Hopkins

Library: Ivanhoe Library

Volunteer Position: Chat and Connect Facilitator

Time Volunteering with YPRL: 4 Years

If you could have lunch with anyone in the world, living or dead, who would it be?

Desmond Tutu, or the Dalai Lama.

How did you begin volunteering at YPRL?

I consider myself a creative person and I wanted to find some way of sharing life issues with other people after I retired.

On a trip to Switzerland and the Greek Island of Santorini, I had the opportunity to meet many amazing people. One day, my travel companion bumped into a young man who was blind. He proceeded to tell us his story about how he had made a completely new life for himself after a car accident which blinded him. He patted his heart and told us, ‘I have everything I need to live a good life’. Since then I have been motivated and captivated to share stories with others.

On my return flight back to Australia, I read an article in a Women’s Weekly magazine about loneliness and concluded that people want to, and need to, chat. My recent travels and interest in getting to know others inspired me to do something about this. I went to the Ivanhoe library to see if I could hire a room to run a group for the purposes of ‘Chatting and Connecting’ with people in the community. Annette, the Ivanhoe Learning Coordinator, was so taken with the idea that she asked me to be a volunteer with YPRL and to run the ‘Chat and Connect’ program. The rest is history.

Tell us a bit more about your Chat and Connect Group.

The Chat and Connect group is about making connections with people through discussion. We often talk about issues that really matter in the world in this time of rapid change, globalisation and upheaval.

This year we started with the issue of loneliness because there has been a recent report on loneliness in Australia. Rather than start with the report, I chose to use the book ‘Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine’ by Gail Honeyman. It is a novel which subtly weaves themes of loneliness throughout the book. I brought excerpts, quotes, and reader discussion questions from the book to the group. Last week we finished the book and the group participants were astonished by how it ended!

I sometimes also bring in colourful speakers for the attendees to meet. I have a friend who rode his motorbike from Asia to Bulgaria. The group was entertained by his vivid observations and challenged by his questions about the human values he encountered on his journey and back in Australia.

Tell a story of a favourite moment at the library or when you felt you made an impact?

The times I have invited people from other cultures to come and share with the group have been the best.

One time, I brought in a friend who had married a man and raised 4 children in The Gambia (western Africa). The group had the most interesting two hours learning about what life was like in a different part of the world.

I also recall a time I took my Chat and Connect group to an Aged Care Facility. I realised that many folks living in these situations don’t actually reach out into the world anymore, so bringing the world to them was important.

I like magic and that is what happens when people in the group, and visitors, share their stories and perspectives. This is especially so when the conversation goes in an unexpected direction.

Libraries have changed so much since we were children. Why are libraries so important for the local community today?

I grew up in the middle of the bush in an isolated part of Western Victoria. The only fiction books I read were yearly primary school prizes. During my professional career I read academic and research material. It was only after I retired that I joined the library and explored fiction. A new world opened up to me.

Do you have advice for people wanting to get involved in the community?

It seems to me that in Melbourne the way to go is to join common interest groups. I am in a Bushwalking group and a Poetry group.

For migrants it can be difficult to get involved in the local community. A friend of mine who was an asylum seeker used to ask ‘how do I get into the Australian community?’ She was part of an Ethiopian community. After some years she took a course and her children started school, both of which opened her up to a community.

I see myself as a bridge and have invited Cambodians, Ethiopians and Malaysian Chinese into my home. This has benefitted those with different cultural backgrounds and has also enriched my life.

If you would like to join Margaret for her Chat and Connect group, please visit the following link for more information. The group meets on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of every month from 10AM – 11:30AM at Ivanhoe Library. No registration required.

Join the drop-in Chat and Connect group.

Interested in Volunteering?

Please visit our ‘Volunteering With YPRL’ page and keep your eyes open for upcoming volunteer opportunities with the library. You can also visit our 'Volunteering in the Community' page for access to local volunteering opportunities or read our blog post we published for National Volunteer Week about getting involved.

Contact Sarah Howe, Volunteers Coordinator at 9088 3441 for more information.

We are featuring YPRL volunteers and sharing information about volunteering in your local community to celebrate National Volunteer Week this week. Follow along with us! #NVW2019

You can share your story about how the library has changed your life by visiting this website.

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