Ausnew Home Care | Despite disability forcing his retirement as a teacher, Mike is finding ways to continue giving back

Despite disability forcing his retirement as a teacher, Mike is finding ways to continue giving back

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Mike Trafalski has been volunteering with the Vinnies Albany since he retired from teaching due to disability.

He has kyphosis scoliosis, which affects his ability to walk.

He previously worked as a deputy principal and counsellor, but the school had too many flights of stairs.

"So stairs weren't my best friend," Mr Trafalski said.

"My spine affects my legs, and my left leg collapses frequently. I can't stand or walk for a long time."

the inside of an op shop
Mr Trafalski is part of the essential volunteers that keep the doors open at Vinnies Albany.(ABC Great Southern: Chris Edmonson)

When he started at Vinnies they were not looking for someone with computer skills so he volunteers in client interviews, database entry, and offers IT help to the volunteers when they need it.

In client interviews he meets a lot of desperate people who need help.

"We try to find out what sort of assistance they might need, and we book an appointment for them to come in," Mr Trafalski said.

Vinnies offers clothing vouchers, furniture, and food hampers — depending on what people need.

End of year demand

Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year because people struggle with supplies over the holidays.

The volunteers are are already exhausted putting together food hampers for Christmas dinners.

Anne Smith, the president of the Great Southern Vinnies and a volunteer alongside Mr Trafalski in client interviews, said his teaching background really helps with clients.

a woman in front of a camera
Great Southern Vinnies president Anne Smith said she's very grateful for volunteers like Mr Trafalski.(ABC Great Southern: Eleanor Beidatsch)

"I suppose he's very accepting of anybody and everybody, really, and I think that's probably the thing that helps the most," Ms Smith said.

"I think that over the years [as a teacher] you just see so many different people, you're used to dealing with all sorts of different people, and it doesn't faze you."

Giving back

Ms Smith described Mr Trafalski as a "character" and said he was "very compassionate" with the clients.

"Sometimes the treasurer gets cross with him because he gives a client more than the treasurer thinks they should get, according to the budget," Ms Smith said.

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Ms Smith said Mr Trafalski has been known to go above and beyond for clients.(ABC Great Southern: Chris Edmonson)

One of the services Vinnies provides is assisting with amenities like power bills, but Mr Trafalski goes above and beyond when it comes to financially supporting clients.

"People are really, really struggling with the amount of petrol they have to buy and car registration because of all the other costs they've got," Ms Smith said.

"And so Mike will sometimes [suggest helping with] car registration, or a $30 petrol voucher, for example, when that's not actually strictly in the budget."

Sense of pride

Mr Trafalski believes volunteering is important for people with a disability and other issues so that they do not end up isolated.

"A lot of people, once they retire, tend to be a bit lonely," he said.

"They need social contact as they don't get out as often as they should.

"So volunteering gives you a chance to mix with other people."

the inside of an op shop
Mr Trafalski plays an important part in helping people navigate IT issues.(ABC Great Southern: Chris Edmonson)

Having volunteers with a disability is good for representation in the community as well.

Ms Smith thinks that Mr Trafalski's disability helps normalise it for the clients and other volunteers.

"I think society doesn't always see the person so it's a really good example of a person and a character. Mike is a real character," she said.

"But also it's a part of the mix that we really should be coping with."

Source: ABC

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