As a child, Carol Bradnock liked to help seniors because they often looked sad and she wanted to help make them happy. Perhaps it’s because she has a lot to live up to (her grandfather founded the Rātana movement and her grandmother was Iriaka Rātana, the first woman to represent Māori in the New Zealand Parliament), or perhaps Carol was just born with boundless energy – but either way, she has dedicated most of her life to helping others. Her father always said, “You can’t help the whole world, but you can help one person at a time,” and Carol still firmly believes this at 63 years old.
Carol does a little more than help one person at a time though. Her diary is full enough to keep two or three ‘regular’ people very busy. She volunteers with Age Concern Wellington Region, where she has been matched with three different clients. She spends an hour with each a week, and volunteers for the Read and Recovery programme at the Konini School in Wainuiomata as well. She also volunteers at the local Salvation Army Family Store, Child Cancer collections, Meals on Wheels, Community Patrols, Mary Potter Hospice, Daffodil Day, Guide Dog Foundation, Heart Kids Wellington Committee, Pink Ribbon Day, as a driver for the Cancer Society, and the list goes on.
“Everyone needs someone you can moan to sometimes,” Carol says, “and I don’t mind listening. One of the ladies I visit has children in Australia, and although she speaks with them often over the phone, it’s not the same as having someone on the ground that you can speak to face-to-face.”
“I know that I am, for that moment, making a difference. I may not have money to give away, but I can help people in other ways,” she says. “When I pick-up someone to take them to a cancer treatment appointment, I like to tell them how nice they look or ask how their day has been. Their faces light-up, it makes me feel so good to see that. If I’m driving someone to an appointment and they’re a little sad or grumpy, I put oldies on the radio and they soon soften-up.”
Carol’s diligent organisation has enabled her to find creative multi-tasking solutions as well. On Sundays for example, she picks-up a friend who doesn’t have a car and takes him to visit his mother-in-law in a retirement home. On the way, they stop and pick-up Carol’s Age Concern client Edna, and they go have an ice cream while Carol’s friend visits his mother.
Carol began volunteering with Age Concern in 2019. She was matched with Shirley. “We have a good chat and a cuppa once a week. Carol is a good, kind-hearted soul,” Shirley says. They also have TV programmes they like to watch together. “She is more of a friend now,” Shirley adds.
A year later, when Carol heard that Age Concern was short of volunteers in the Hutt Valley, she agreed to be matched with another client, Edna. “Carol came to visit me in Wainuiomata, and we just clicked. She has done lots for me. She takes me out, we go out for drives, she has taken me shopping… We’re great friends. She cheers me up when I’m a bit down. It helped that she was visiting me when I moved into a retirement village. Sometimes I don’t know what I would have done without her,” says client Edna. “She has been really good to me. She is such a cheery, kind lady.”
Carol is also a live-in carer for an older family friend, and works a few hours a week at the Toy Library in Brooklyn. She spends a lot of time with her family as well; she especially loves spending time with her grandchildren.
Carol’s husband was sadly lost at sea 22 years ago. “He was able to hold our first grandchild before he died. Now I have 13 mokos (mokopunas) and my family to love so I have a lot to be thankful for,” Carol says, although she admits there were some difficult years when she was bringing up her children alone. She’s proud of who her four children have grown to be.
Carol’s mother was cared for by Mary Potter Hospice in the last weeks of her life. Carol remembers rushing there after a late-night phone call. Although this was four years ago, she recalls her heartbeat rushing as she arrived at the reception desk, worried the news would be bad. The receptionist’s calm and reassuring welcome steadied Carol. “These people are so grounding, so kind and helpful. I wouldn’t have expected it. Even though they are volunteers, their role is crucial. They helped settle my nerves before I went in and see mum.”
“I get a kick out of volunteering,” Carol says when asked why she volunteers. “I love sitting back and watching someone gain a little happiness. It’s like watching someone open presents at Christmas; it’s a bit like being Santa sometimes.”
When Age Concern Wellington Region asked Carol if she would agree to being nominated for the Hutt City Civic Award, Carol was surprised and a little embarrassed by the attention. “I’m just happy to help,” she said humbly. Whether Carol is chosen to receive this award or not, Carol’s impact on so many lives doesn’t go unnoticed and Age Concern is incredibly thankful for all the fantastic work she does.