Ankali celebrates its silver anniversary this year, and the best way to show your support, according to project manager Michael Buggy, is to enrol in their training session in March.

For 25 years, Ankali has provided volunteer helpers for people living with HIV. The service was born out of a philosophy of providing whatever help people needed — emotional, physical, or simple assistance getting groceries.  That approach has not changed much, although the nature of HIV has.

With people living longer with HIV, Buggy said Ankali is servicing more people than ever, with up to 150 people on their books at any given time. Becoming a volunteer is the best birthday present you could give Ankali.

“In the general community, there is a perception that HIV is now a manageable disease, and services like Ankali are no longer needed — but that’s clearly not the case,” Buggy told Sydney Star Observer.

“There are very specific needs for a proportion of people living with HIV. People who need some extra support in dealing with that diagnosis, and other things that affect their lives as a result of their HIV status. So we recruit, train and provide support for volunteers, who in turn, provide that support.”

Ankali was named after an Aboriginal word for friendship. Buggy explained that volunteers are not expected to be psychologists.

“One of the big issues for many of our clients is social isolation, so volunteers do a fantastic job in alleviating that. We’re looking for volunteers who can give time to just be there for somebody who has needs — being a friend to them, being a listening ear and being there for them in times of crisis or when things are good.”

The volunteer training in March will mark the 80th recruitment session the organisation has run.

All volunteers will be invited to Ankali House later this year for an official birthday celebration and a service to dedicate the house’s garden to the Reverend Jim Dykes.

Dykes was one of Ankali’s founders.

“We felt that it was a fitting tribute to Jim, to dedicate the garden to him with a ceremony later in the year. We always try to show our appreciation for our volunteers,” Buggy said.

info: For more information on becoming an Ankali volunteer, visit Ankali House at 150-154 Albion St, Surry Hills, or call 9332 9600.

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