In November 1998, Jan Pickett’s life changed ……..
She heard about Feng-Jia, a little three year old girl who had travelled to Australia with her mother Iris who needed life saving dialysis treatment. Feng-Jia has a disability and needed someone who would speak up for her, help her to learn, and be there for her when her mother was in hospital.
When Jan was asked to be Feng-Jia’s advocate she responded straight from the heart. “I felt that the time was right for me to give something back to my community. My son was in Boarding School and I was spending my time renovating the house.”
Jan is clear that being an advocate does not mean having special expertise or qualifications. “We spend a lot of time just having fun together doing ordinary things. We go shopping or go to the park, and Feng spends a lot of time at home with me.” Jan is very conscious of the need for Feng to be well prepared for future. She is well known at the local school where Feng is part of a pre-school group, and she is always ready to speak up when Feng’s interests are at stake.
There are some things about knowing Feng-Jia which have come as a surprise. She has found that people with a disability can often be lonely and at risk. They can miss out on getting what they really need if there is no strong voice speaking up for them. “ I didn’t expect that the things I could do would make such a difference to her life, and I didn’t expect her to make such an impact on my own life.”
While Jan has made a voluntary commitment to Feng-Jia, and willingly shares her time, she does not regard herself as a volunteer. “Feng-Jia and Iris are part of my family now and I am part of theirs.”
So what does Jan get from her role as a citizen advocate? Without hesitation she responded “Loyalty, support, and oceans of love.”