Almost 24 years ago, Sue Reid joined CBM Australia as a volunteer. Ready to return to work, she was drawn to the mission of CBM.
“I had a friend who worked at CBM, and I said to her, ‘I think I need to do something useful with my time, would there be any volunteering jobs?’,” Sue remembers.
For two years, Sue worked one day a week on data hygiene, ensuring supporter data was correct and up to date. Although it wasn’t long before Sue’s excellent skills were in high demand.
“When I needed to extend my days, because I had such a good relationship with the data processing team, I ended up with a four-day maternity leave position.”
And Sue never looked back. In her 22 years as an employee, mostly as a volunteer coordinator, she has seen CBM evolve.
Back then, CBM operated out of a two-story terrace in Kew. At the time it had an audiobook library and other domestic programs on top of its core international development focus.
When the organisation moved to Box Hill, it expanded the library, introducing a full recording studio to produce the audiobooks, as well as a lending service. CBM also launched a startup for disability inclusive development and humanitarian work to ensure all Australian international development organisations and the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade would include people with disabilities in their aid work. This has since gone global, providing advice to the World Bank, United Nations, World Vision and the World Food Programme.
More recently, Sue has guided the volunteer program, with her former colleague Elizabeth, through very tough COVID lockdowns, which impacted the program, CBM and our participants.
The volunteer program went from providing an average of 4,300 hours over 11 months up to 2019, to just 1,740 in the past three years. Still, Sue’s unfailing sense of optimism has served the program well, as she adapted to a changed environment, shifting the program to hybrid, and not losing the valuable connections she helped to grow over the past two decades. The program is still highly valued by CBM as it contributes to our mission; transforming the lives of people with disabilities, their families and communities.
“It’s certainly changed a lot,” Sue said. “And most changes have been challenging but also very good changes.”
Sue also said some core elements of the program remain: data hygiene, research and evaluation, supporter communications, transcribing and translating interviews with program participants, and the Thursday prayer session where CBM supporters submit prayers. More recently, CBM has increased the digital component to the work, which will continue to increase.
Recently, Sue presented CBM’s longest serving volunteer, Nicky (below, front row, second from the left), with her 25 years of service gift during volunteering week.
The success of CBM’s volunteering program is shown through the longevity of volunteers like Nicky, who, like Sue, had worked at CBM’s Kew and Box Hill offices, before returning to its original home in the inner eastern suburb of Richmond (although about 4km from the original office). While the tasks they take on vary, all the volunteers agree that Sue is a welcoming, kind and organised coordinator who always ensures the volunteers feel valued.
Sue, nearing 70, will retire in July to enjoy her time as a grandparent of three and do a little bit of travel – “not too much!”
“I love reading. I have photos stacked up and need to go into books… I’m just looking forward to having time to myself.
“I am taking away very good friendships and an enjoyable few years with a lot to look back on. I really had a purpose and something to get me up in the morning. The job is a really good job with really good people.”
And she knows she will stay in touch with many of the volunteers she has connected with over the years.
“I have formed such good relationships and strong connections. There are people who I would hate to think I will not see again. We have always loved our lunches and our time together. Most of the people work well together, and some were there once a week, every week for a full day.”
Still, some of Sue’s favourite memories centre on CBM’s long-standing Miracles event, where volunteers would cater, clean data, process donations and ensure there was coffee for those staffing the phones to answer calls from supporters donating one or many Miracles ($33, which enables a 12-minute operation to give the gift of sight to people living in remote communities in some of the poorest countries).
Sue will be missed not only for her outstanding work ethic and contribution to CBM’s volunteer program but also for her kindness, generosity of spirit, and her ability to make everyone feel welcome. We wish Sue all the best and hope she forms many more valuable memories in the years to come.