Volunteer Voices - "It’s what volunteering is all about, enrichment for everyone.” - Sally Jory

A photo of Sally standing in front of a cinder block wall with paintings of birds, bowling pins, and kiwi toys

Sally Jory takes the people in her art group as she finds them. “These people have faced significant challenges with mental health and addictions but I don’t know the details, I’m only interested in each one as the person I see in front of me” says the Millers Flat art tutor. “I do know they have given me a new definition of strength.”

An accomplished artist, Sally volunteers monthly with the charitable trust ABLE Minds in Alexandra. Formed as an amalgamation of four community support organisations serving Otago and Southland its primary purpose is to support people affected by mental distress or addictions and their whānau. “The goal is empowerment. My art group gives me the ideas, not the other way round” says Sally.

Volunteering with ABLE for 18 months as activities facilitator, Sally’s background in art and the care sector make her a perfect fit for the role. Initially taking the initiative of approaching ABLE herself, they welcomed her with open arms. “I felt this would be an interesting and stimulating group to volunteer with and they are certainly that. A culture of support is everything at ABLE. The staff are wonderful and I have felt so welcomed and valued.”

Her group of budding artists' most recent project is painting a mural on the interior back wall of the activity centre where the Alexandra group meets. Previously painted in a bland colour, the group already had an idea of what they wanted to do with the wall and she helped them consolidate their ideas into drawings and then develop their painting skills. The Kiwiana theme is constantly evolving with new ideas coming from the artists and Sally is watching with pride as self-esteem increases along with art skills.

Sally grew up on the Otago peninsula in a community that was rich in artistic inspiration. “We had the famous artist Robin White in our area, my headmaster was an artist, as was my neighbour.” Art was Sally’s favourite subject at school, but she was also fascinated by people and cultures. In her art practice she loves to experiment with different media and her work ranges from realistic to humorous. She also works part time for the Royal District Nursing Service helping people in the Roxborough area to remain in their homes in spite of age or disability.

Sally’s husband Phil works for the area's new gold mine and they both love living in Millers Flat. “I know from personal experience how supportive this community is. It’s a warm and kind place to live. We have lots of great features like the cycle trail, Faigan’s cafe, the bakery Bakehouse/Museum, the motor camp, school with a heated pool and the pub. There’s a real village-like feel here.”

Sally’s art can be seen all over the area on signs and murals and her Chorus cabinet art paintings entitled “Switchboard Operator” won her a place in their calendar. Apart from doing art her happy place is in the garden or walking the family's two jack russells. She continues to build her skills in therapy and is doing an online course in diversional therapy.

Sally feels excited every Sunday before she goes to ABLE. “I know it will be great fun and I feel privileged to have the opportunity to work with everyone there. It’s what volunteering is all about, enrichment for everyone.”

To find out more about Able Minds and how you can be involved, check out their website: http://www.able.org.nz/

Written by Juliette Hicks, 2023