Sue Stewart has been volunteering for The Footpath Library since it first began and is still as committed as ever. She shares how she first became involved and the important social impact having a chat about books over a cuppa can have.
How did you first start volunteering for The Footpath Library?
I volunteered with a not for profit organisation called “Just Enough Faith” (JEF) as far back as 2003. I was in the Tuesday night team along with Sarah and Shane which shared great camaraderie.
This social interaction and discussion about the books had a positive impact on the regular customers. We were all focused on building rapport with many of homeless men and women and know their names to this day. When JEF ceased feeding homeless people, it was taken over by another organisation (Rev. Bill Crews). At that time Sarah made a decision to move the Library to a new location and I decided to support Sarah in continuing this valuable service to homeless and disadvantaged people. This service is now what you all know as The Footpath Library.
What does my role with TFL involve?
On Tuesday nights my role is to greet our customers with a warm welcome to those who are lining up for refreshments, individually call them by their names when possible and engage with them about their usual drink requests, recent book selection or something topical with sport, news, city of Sydney happenings .
For me, the most important thing is that they feel somewhat valued by the personal interaction and they enjoy their cuppa and biscuits.
My role allows me to enhance some interpersonal relationships with homeless and disadvantaged people however their physical health and psychological wellbeing is a great concern to all of us at The Footpath Library.
What benefits do you think providing books has to homeless people?
People tend to feel good about reading. It stimulates their minds and keeps their brains active. I’ve heard some homeless people call it mind food.
What’s one thing that you wish people understood better about homelessness?
Very few homeless people are assisted ‘to get off the street’. Some homeless people we have known over the past 10 years have not found housing or medical programs to assist their well-being.
What would you say to someone thinking about volunteering for The Footpath Library?
Are you kind and generous to others and never too busy to do a favour?
Do you gain pleasure and joy from doing good deeds for others?
Are you happy for your actions to be guided by homeless people’s best interests?
Most importantly are you willing acknowledge the worth of others, namely homeless and disadvantaged people, whose behaviour and body odour at times be unacceptable?
Are you a great team player, contributing your share by donating your time and working consistently for the good and success of The Footpath Library?
What are you reading at the moment?
I am currently reading “Live Happier, Live Longer. Your Guide to Positive Ageing and Making the Most of Life” by Dr. Timothy Sharp from the Happiness Institute.
I am in a transition from giving up full time work (40 plus years working as Qantas Airways Customer Service Manager) to semi-retirement. The book provides a practical toolkit for how to think positively about the ‘Third Age’ phase of life that greets me