Patron to Volunteer: Meet Lis

Rosies’ volunteers come from all different places, have unique experiences, and give freely of their time for many different reasons. For one Brisbane City volunteer, Lis Rourke, her reason for volunteering is somewhat closer to home.  

“I volunteer with Rosies because they were there for me during some really dark periods in my life and this is my way of thanking them,” Lis said.  

Lis has been a member of the Rosies family for over a year, starting out with our Brisbane North branch before moving into the bustling Brisbane City branch.  

As a teenager Lis lived on the street and was addicted to heroin and like many in her situation, she relied on services like Rosies for food, drink, and companionship.  

“There was a group of us living on the street and we would all look after each other. We all knew to meet up at the Rosies van and we’d be taken care of,” said Lis. 

She continued, “We would make our rounds to the services that were at King George Square back when they were allowed there. Drug Arm was there to help and sometimes you could get a feed off the Hare Krishna people but we always knew the Rosies van would be there – we could count on them when we couldn’t count on anyone else.” 

“The Rosies people never judge. That was why I was always comfortable going there and why I wanted to volunteer with them when I got things in order.” 

Lis, who has been clean for the last seventeen years, decided to make a change when her daughter was born addicted to heroin and died shortly after her birth. “I made a promise to my daughter, and I’ve never looked back. It was hard but I decided to make a change,” said Lis.  

Over the next couple of years, Lis focused on her sobriety and being the best mum, she could to her children. “I was in a better place and started to think about how I wanted to give back to the places who helped me. I did a lot of volunteer work with QUIHN which I really liked, but I was experiencing domestic violence and needed to flee, so I couldn’t commit to volunteering just yet,” Lis recalled.  

“Rosies was there for me throughout that time as well, I’d drop in and out when I needed but could never stay in one place too long,” she continued.  

“I am in a place now where I feel safe and I’m not moving, so I could finally join Rosies on the other side of the table. It’s been a year now and I’m really happy. It feels good to be in a position where I can give back to an organisation and people that helped me so much,” Lis said.  

Lis uses her background and lived experience to connect with our patrons on outreach, “Some of the people who come to us are drug affected or their mental health is not great, and I know what to say or what they need, and I try to pass on that knowledge to my teammates. I know how to help and can de-escalate any potential high-risk situations because I know what our patrons are going through. A lot of people who come to Rosies don’t know about all of the other services they can access or how to access them, so I try and help or show them where to start.” 

She continued, “When I used to come to Rosies I always liked how the volunteers would remember that I only drank cold milo even when it was freezing out. The volunteer would see me coming and make me a cold milo without even asking and it made me feel special that someone would remember a little detail like that. I try and take the opportunity to do that for our regular patrons so that they know that someone cares about them and thinks they are special.” 

On volunteering Lis said that “I feel like I’m making a difference and I go home and feel humbled, and I hope that I’ve helped someone. I feel really grateful for Rosies – there is a volunteer on my team named Elaine and she is like an angel; she makes everyone feel welcome and another named Cathy who brings a smile to everyone she meets. They are all so special and I’m just really grateful to spend time with them.” 

Volunteers like Lis are one of the many reasons that Rosies has been able to remain present for our friends in need – her unique blend of compassion, empathy and lived experience help our patrons to feel safe and welcome.  

*If you find any of the content in this story distressing, please contact the Red Nose Baby & Infant Bereavement Support line on 1300 308 307 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.