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Oxfam volunteer stories: Gail Thornthwaite

John Siddham on working with Gail Thornthwaite:

Imagine having a volunteer who is there not just to perform routine tasks but also shares several common interests. Well, I was very fortunate to have had Gail Thornthwaite as one of my long-standing volunteers. Gail was in her late sixties when she commenced with me, and she stayed with me until I finished at Oxfam, almost nine years. She is an incredible person, very resourceful, humble, and generous. She is meticulous, smart, and professional. Our day usually begins with a quick catch up of weekly events, often politics and sports, and depending on the season could be either footy or cricket. She is very well informed about footy, particularly the ins and outs of the clubs, including injuries. So much so I began to rely on her analysis and perspective for my footy tipping.

As Gail’s supervisor, I spent the time to get to know her, her interests, her passion and her skills. Getting to know her helped me to find relevant and appropriate tasks to assign her. It also helped me to engage with her on our mutual interests. Once in a while, we would go out for a well-deserved lunch, usually 2-3 times a year.

As a volunteer, Gail made a profound impact on me. She excelled at all the tasks I assigned her. One of the jobs she undertook was to convert some 300 odd videocassettes into DVDs. These are videos recorded by Oxfam staff during their field trips from the 70s, 80s and 90s, as well as documentaries produced for advocacy and campaigns purposes. The job involved her actually to watch all the videos during the conversion process. As well, she has been uploading all the evaluations and review documents to the Search and Learn (SAL) database. This task required her to read the documents and develop metadata to publish on the system. Through these tasks, I can confidently say that Gail is probably the only person at Oxfam who knows a lot more about our work, both historical and current.

It has been a privilege to have Gail work for us, for Oxfam and work with me. We have certainly benefitted from her generous contributions, her experience and skills in achieving quality work.

John Siddham
Former Oxfam staff member
March 2020