Volunteering can sow the seeds of a healthy community, just ask Diana Mathew.
Since joining Wandana Community Centre as a volunteer four years ago, Diana has rebounded from illness and honed new skills while reaping the satisfaction that comes with helping others.
One of 10 active volunteers at Wandana, Diana is a vital part of the community gardening group which meets weekly on Monday morning.
Under the guidance of garden caretaker Alan Shepard, Diana supervises participants and tends the fruit trees, vegetable areas, orchard and herb garden.
She says taking on the unpaid role unearthed an unexpected passion for gardening, now evident in her own backyard.
“If they’d said at the start we need an English teacher, or someone to teach relaxation or people how to budget, I would have taken any of those options over gardening,’’ explains Diana.
“But gardening was all that was available at the time. It was a good decision that I wouldn’t have made, and I’ve never looked back; I loved it right from the word go.’’
There is always work to do in the organic green space on Blacks Rd at Gilles Plains.
Almond, pomegranate, quince, lemon, loquat, plum, mulberry and vanilla-tasting ice cream bean trees stand tall in the orchard, while indigenous plantings attract birds and native butterflies.
Seasonal vegetables and herbs are abundant. Sometimes these are offered for sale from the propagating shed – built by local TAFE students – to raise money for new seedlings and garden equipment.
While a back injury has forced Diana to temporarily down tools, she looks forward to returning to the place that gave her a routine at a time when she needed it the most.
“It sets up my week,’’ she said.
“One of my passions in life is to help other people; it’s been my driving thing ever since I can remember. So if I can help people in any way, I want to do that.’’
Diana’s advice for people pondering volunteering is to go for it: “Try something different. It might be the best thing you ever do.’’