NSW Senior Volunteer of the Year – Bev Cooney, OAM, MOHpe from Bathurst
Congratulations to Bev, a member of the E-Club Serving Humanity and Honorary member of the Rotary Club of Bathurst, on being awarded NSW Senior Volunteer of the Year 2020. Bev Cooney helped establish the Dementia Café – cleverly name Dcafe – at The Neighbourhood Centre in Bathurst. Volunteers have been trained to help run the café which provides a space for people with dementia to come together, interact and maintain a sense of connection with the local community and its people.
Bev is co-ordinating a volunteer program at Bathurst Hospital known as CHOPS (Confused Hospitalised Older Persons Volunteer Program.
The aim of the program for patients with dementia and delirium is to enhance the emotional care and security of patients during their stay in hospital. The program supports family and carers and the nursing staff. This includes assisting patients with eating and drinking, gentle exercise, promoting the wearing of hearing and visual aids and appropriate therapeutic activities.
In Bathurst, volunteers have made books that are of interest to patients as well as assisting nurses with handover at shift change.
Volunteers undergo an appropriate selection and training process. This volunteer program model, supported by Director of Nursing and Midwifery Brad Molenkamp, is the responsibility of nursing and allied health staff.
Bev indicates the Bathurst Hospital requires three people on each shift in the Medical, Surgical and Rehabilitation wards.
Not content with just supporting the CHOPS program in the hospital Bev has embarked on an education program to ensure Bathurst becomes a Dementia Friendly Community. With the growth in our population and the large community of retirees the instances of Dementia is growing.
Alzheimer’s Australia and the Australian Government are encouraging towns to introduce the Dementia Friendly Cities Program to make lives easier for the people who suffer this insidious disease. With three in ten people over the age of 80 and one in ten over 65 with dementia, it is timely for our community to be active.
Bev indicates that simple education programs, adjusting signs around town and by making shopping centres, cafes and restaurants dementia friendly we can improve Bathurst to be one of the most modern cities in this country.
We are proud to have Bev as a member of our Rotary Club. She has achieve much in her life assisting those less fortunate.
Bev has previously been recognised for her volunteer work in Peru. read her story below:
Bev Cooney’s Story – Chasing Dreams in Peru
06 Nov 2013
Walking through a hospital, one could be forgiven for not having their wits about them. There are clinicians and nurses darting this way and that, patients being ferried from one ward to another and concerned visitors anxiously making their way to the nearest information desk to find the whereabouts of their loved one. In this beehive of activity, there is rarely a minute to slow down and take in what’s happening around you. So slow down, and take a minute to read this.
Last month Bev Cooney, an Enrolled Nurse at Westmead Hospital, received the Medal of the Order of Australia. One would automatically assume such an award would be directly aligned with her profession. But Bev’s story is much more than that.
Bev has been a nurse for 47 years, spending most of her time working in children’s hospitals. In 2003, Bev accomplished one of her lifelong dreams of travelling to Peru in South America. She walked the Inca trail, visited untouched rainforests and saw some of the finest sites that part of the world has to offer. But the best thing she did, in her own words, was visit a “big kid’s hospital”.
“Like everybody else in Australia I thought we had nothing in our hospitals, but I soon realised we had everything. So I decided that I should help these people,” Bev said.
Bev didn’t just “help”. In 2006, she founded a school and rehabilitation centre that provides medical care and education for children and adults with disabilities and their families. She raised funds for the construction of the school and rehabilitation centre including using some of her own superannuation payout.
“The year after my first visit I took a team of surgeons, anaesthetists and nurses and we worked in the big kid’s hospital in Lima for a little while. From there we went out to the jungle with a team of local doctors to a town called Satipo, which had a 19 bed hospital, but while we were there I saw 500 kids that were disabled who could not go to school. They were not permitted to go to school,” Bev said.
This really worried her. As a nurse working with disabled kids every day in Australia, it was inconceivable to see them marginalised in another part of the world. Disabled adults also fell victim to the community’s pre-conditioned view that these adults have been punished by the gods and therefore must suffer. So in 2005, Bev began to make some enquiries.
“In 2005 I went back twice to see what it would take to build a school there. I worked out approximately what it would cost, and that I could do it with my super. So I came home and retired in 2006 and I went back and built a school for 100 kids and a house for myself to live,” Bev said.
Bev started working with the Mayor of the town and managed to acquire a place for the adult disabled and taught them how to sow and started a factory. They now make clothes and sell them in the markets, and more importantly, are no longer living on the streets.
Her extraordinary accomplishments have not come without some obstacles. Bev has been shot at, kidnapped, extorted and belittled but this has not stopped her in her quest. She’s had to return to work to continue funding the centre and move to Sydney to take on the role, but she says it has all been worth it.
Next year Bev is taking a team of plastic surgeons, anaesthetists and nurses to Satipo to operate on children who are born with cleft palates. She hopes it will inspire more volunteers to share their knowledge and time for those who need it most.
In time, Bev yearns to live in her home in Satipo permanently, but now she is happy to continue her work both in Australia and Peru. Her compassion for the children of Satipo is heart-warming, and her unassuming, humble nature is inspiring. So next time you’re hurrying through a hospital take a second to slow down, because you might just pass someone as remarkable as Bev.