Volunteer profile: Simonetta and José
Simonetta and her partner, José, have been volunteering with Children First Foundation for almost five years. They first heard about the Foundation from two friends who were volunteers at the time. Their stories and experiences made a strong impression on the couple. When they heard that there was an Open Day at The Retreat (then known as ‘The Farm’), they jumped at the chance to attend and find out more.
“After speaking to the staff and meeting the children at the Open Day, we decided, there and then, that we would give volunteering with Children First Foundation a go,” explains Simonetta. “We arranged to have a trial session in a fortnight – and here we are, five years later – still enjoying our monthly volunteering weekend at The Retreat.”
José and Simonetta do an overnighter at The Retreat every fourth weekend of the month. They prepare meals, wash clothes, clean up, and most importantly, have lots of fun playing, dancing and hanging out with the kids. “There have been so many highlights and wonderful memories over the last five years,” says Simonetta.
“One that sticks out for me is arriving at The Retreat for our weekend shift and being greeted at the door by a lovely tall young man, who I presumed was a new child. I said my usual hellos, and then this very tall young man said, ‘Hello Sim’. I stood back for a moment and thought, I know that voice, but I couldn’t recognise his face. Then it hit me, like a lightning bolt, it was Kiko! I was gobsmacked! In between our volunteering shifts, Kiko had facial surgery, and I honestly didn’t recognise him. I couldn’t believe the change in his appearance!”
Kiko had a pituitary gland disorder. The resulting excess growth hormones caused his lower jaw to grow rapidly ahead of his upper jaw. Thanks to Professor Andrew Heggie, Kiko underwent maxillofacial surgery which brought forward his cheeks and eye sockets, and his cheekbones in line with the upper jaw. As Simonetta says, his transformation was profound.
For José, an unforgettable memory was when he discovered that one of the kids, Teresa, enjoyed dancing! Simonetta laughs as she recalls what happened next.
“For anyone who knows José and his love for dancing, that was like holding a red flag to a bull! So, one Sunday, we pushed the furniture out of the way, put the music on, and José taught Teresa and the rest of the gang how to do the Cha Cha Cha. It was such a fun afternoon; I can still hear the laughter travelling up and down the hallway! “
“There are so many things that we enjoy about volunteering with Children First Foundation, but what stands out for us both, is that we love seeing the difference the surgeries and treatments make to each child. We both feel so happy knowing that when these children go back to their various home countries, they will have an improved and better chance at life. That is what gives us the most joy.”