I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996 and within a couple of weeks I was loaned Petrea’s book, Spirited Women. In the book, I read about the workshops she held in the motel in Bundanoon. I found the book and then the workshop, incredibly uplifting and helpful.
I started attending the Monday support groups with Petrea in Bundanoon and then went to another Spirited Women program in October 1998.
The Quest for Life Foundation had just been gifted Killarney Guesthouse – as it was then. Petrea brought the support group members up to have a look. We walked in the front door and I thought it looked like a bomb had hit! There were no floors, just planks to walk along, no walls and no ceilings. It was a complete disaster zone. Petrea said it would be open in eight months and I thought, “nope, that’s not going to happen”. But it did!
I just love this place so much! When I’d first visited, we walked around the grounds; right around and into the far corners. I had this feeling that this was where I needed to be. Even though I lived in Sydney, I asked if there was anything I could volunteer to do. In December that year, Petrea and Wendie were going away and had no one to look after their dogs. So, I came and stayed in the caretaker’s cottage with their dogs – and my cat.
I’d already got to know Bundanoon quite well through attending the support groups – so when I saw this cute little cottage just around the corner from the Quest for Life Centre, I fell in love – it was as though it was waiting for me. I thought, can I really do this? I decided, “I’ll give it six months and see how I manage the winter. I can always move back to Sydney if I don’t like it”. Twenty years later, I’m still here! I couldn’t move back to Sydney now. I just love Bundanoon.
Initially, volunteering meant scraping paint off the windows upstairs! I remember a whole lot of us were upstairs scraping paint, making beds, cleaning, doing whatever needed to be done.
The day it opened, the plumbers were tweaking the heaters and the carpet was still being laid half an hour before the program started! The floorboards in the dining room were being French polished and we couldn’t use them for a week, so we had our meals in the main room as well.
Just before the first program Petrea bought some vases and flowers. I happened to be in the kitchen washing dishes when she asked if I could arrange them in the vases, which I did.
I said to Mary-Jane (Quest’s Operations Manager) just last week, Petrea has never asked me to stop doing the flowers, so I’m still coming! I’ve also enjoyed maintaining the archives of the photos of the renovations of the building and articles about Petrea and Quest. This now comprises more than 40 volumes.
I see volunteering as a way of giving thanks for the knowledge and support that I’ve received from Petrea and Quest for Life over the years.
Robyn Fagan has arranged flowers throughout the building for every program for the past twenty years! What an amazing gift of giving!