A Volunteer's Story

Ken Kirwood has been involved with the TAD group in Illawarra for 13 years and is currently the group’s coordinator. He grew up in Victoria and did a five year apprenticeship in carpentry and joinery in Yallourn employed by the State Electricity Commission (SEC). “We used to call it Safe, Easy and Comfortable, but I’m sure it’s not like that anymore!”

Eventually the cold Victorian winters got to him.

“Working outside wasn’t much fun in the cold, especially since I rode a motorbike – there was no escaping it.”

Ken moved to Wollongong in search of the warm weather. He met his wife Robin and was married in 1966. Eventually he started his own building company which he ran for 10 years building cottages. After developing a 'builders’ back' he gave it up and became a teacher at TAFE.

“TAFE was definitely the best job I had,” says Ken. “It was very rewarding. Part of the course was building a cottage from scratch; the students always got a huge sense of achievement from that.”

It was while Ken was teaching at TAFE that he saw an article in the paper about TAD Disability Services and thought he would investigate further after he retired. Three years after retiring, Ken went along to meet the local TAD group.

“I felt a lot of compassion for people dealing with disabilities and it was good to think that I could use my skills to help people in some way,” says Ken.

Ken has done many TAD projects over the years from bathroom modifications to mobility devices for young children, but for him it’s the clients, rather than the projects that are most memorable.

“The best thing for me is meeting the clients and seeing their reaction to the job that you have done for them. I remember one man called Jack who couldn’t bend his fingers. I made a variety of handles so that he could hold his electric toothbrush and razor. Seeing the difference that a small change like that made to him was so rewarding for me.”

Ken does most of his TAD work at the local Men’s Shed in Corrimal and enjoys the camaraderie of the other men and TAD volunteers with whom he shares a lot of fun and jokes.

“I’ve just finished a Kangaroo corner chair and table for a young child - I love the challenge and I’ll be carrying on for a while yet...the painting and sculpting will just have to wait!”

Watch 'A Volunteer's Story' - a tribute to TAD's history and our volunteers:

Read more about becoming a volunteer in a number of areas from equipment, computer refurbishment to administration, events and more to enable people with disabilities and seniors to live more independently.