Transcript: Sheila Capperauld, Pickleball Champion & Storyteller (The Art of Volunteering)

The following is a transcription of The Art of Volunteering Episode 6: Sheila Capperauld, Pickleball Champion & Storyteller.

Stormy Bell: Welcome back to another episode of The Art of Volunteering. Today, we’re going halfway around the world, or maybe all the way around the world I’m not quite sure, with my friend Sheila Capperauld. Sheila is a long time friend of my husband and myself, but she’s known him longer. He was in college and she was his landlady so we go way back. Sheila is a volunteer, I’m gonna let her tell her story about that. Sheila, can you tell me a little bit about yourself? I know you’ve been in education, so just expand on who you are.

Sheila Capperauld: I have. I taught for about 40 years before I retired. I started in Ontario, Canada and when I left, I was principal of a school of about 500 students. My journey to Australia started with a teacher exchange where you trade jobs and houses with someone in another country for a year. That was extremely rewarding and we discovered in a year we didn’t have to shovel snow once, which was a bit delightful. We fell in love with both the climate and the lifestyle of Australia. So in 2001 my husband and I packed up everything and immigrated to Australia, where again, I took up the role of teaching. We were in South Australia and I ended up as principal of a small school in South Australia. About 12 years ago, we did a sea change and moved to New South Wales, about four hours north of Sydney and I was lucky enough, again, to win a position of principal at another small school. So that’s my education background and how I got to Australia.

Stormy Bell: Very cool. Tell me about your experience as a volunteer. When did you start volunteering?

Sheila Capperauld: One of my first volunteer activities was crewing for hot air balloon championships. The city where we lived hosted national hot air balloon championships and oftentimes the pilots of the balloon were able to bring themselves and their balloon to the site but weren’t able to have their regular crew come because of distances. So we volunteered to crew, which meant helping them inflate the balloon and get it off the ground, and then actually traveling on the ground, following them to make sure that we were there to help pick them up. A bit of a challenge because it being a competition, there was no radio contact allowed so it was all visual. You had to watch where the balloon was going and figure out which road to turn down to follow them.

The other thing that I did when I was in Ontario was volunteer for a local theater, the Georgian College theater group, just ushering for them. That was just a little minor volunteering. When we first moved to South Australia, on a Saturday morning my husband would golf and I would walk the dog to the river and then realized that the visitor information center was right on the river. What a perfect spot. I ended up volunteering at the visitor information center, which was delightful because everyone that came in was in such a good mood. They were usually on holiday looking for things to do. You know as far as customer service goes, it was a really pleasant activity. It gave me an opportunity to get to know the area better too.

When we moved, my job kind of took up most of my time so it wasn’t until I retired that I started volunteering here. [I] started out ushering at the local theater, which I’ve actually given up because I’ve become too busy volunteering and doing other things. It took me a couple of years to get involved in the library. I put my name down to be a library volunteer just to help shelve books and things like that but the local library is very close to a retirement community. So there were lots of people in the retirement community that would volunteer at the library. There was almost a waitlist for volunteers there. But an opportunity came up to help them with their story time, which involves preschool children coming, reading to the children, singing, dancing, engaging them in literature in all sorts of ways, and finishing up with a craft activity. I’ve done that for a couple of years. I also volunteer for the governing body of pickleball, New South Wales (Pickleball Association of NSW (PANSW)). You’ve heard of pickleball?

Stormy Bell: Yes.

Sheila Capperauld: Good. It actually is fairly new in Australia, maybe three years so we’re just learning. The New South Wales association [has] been going for not quite three years as an association and I’m Vice President of that association as well as running our own club locally.

Stormy Bell: Very cool. So pickleball, do you play?

Sheila Capperauld: Absolutely.

Stormy Bell: That sounds like a lot of fun. I’ve never played.

Sheila Capperauld: It is very addictive. I’m in a very small community here on the coast and we started our local club a year ago [in] November with 14 members and we now have 55 members. It has really grown and all up and down the coast it’s getting bigger and bigger. That keeps me fairly busy too.

Stormy Bell: I can imagine.

Sheila Capperauld: The other thing, if I can speak to the future because I’m very excited that hopefully this will finally get off the ground. There’s a program in New South Wales called the Canine Court Companion Program (CCCP) where they have trained guide dogs that are looked after by volunteers and are taken into local courthouse to support victims and witnesses. Just to give them an opportunity, you know how you can interact with dogs and just passing them and can make you feel more relaxed. That was supposed to start probably a couple of years ago in the town closest to where I am. Because of COVID, it’s not taken off yet but they’re opening March 21st. They’ll actually start the final training and get us going in the courts. I’m not actually housing a dog because of where I live, but I’ve put my name down to borrow other people’s dogs and take them into the courthouse and provide respite when they need it. I’m really excited about when that gets off the ground because it’ll be a really worthwhile project.

Stormy Bell: Absolutely.

Sheila Capperauld: There are centers that actually have it going and what they say is it not only helps the victims and witnesses, but it actually tends to calm down the whole courthouse. Calmer environment.

Stormy Bell: I can appreciate that. I mean [there are] dog therapies for a variety of things. Anywhere from children being in the hospital to, like you said, victims just needing that extra reassurance, that calming of it. That’s really cool. You do a lot of different things with your volunteering. What are your core reasons to volunteer? Like why did you get involved?

Sheila Capperauld: Part of it I think is when you retire all of a sudden, not only do you have a void in your life, but you almost have a sense of not being needed. You know when you’re working in a job, you’ve got that sense of you’re doing something and you’re putting into society. When you stop that, it is a void that needs to be filled. So part of it is that, part of it’s just the fulfillment I get from doing all the roles that I take on. It’s wonderful going back into the library and working with children, because that’s the part of the teaching job that I miss the most. I don’t miss the administration part, but I do miss working with children.

Stormy Bell: Right. That’s very cool. If you were to encourage someone else to start volunteering, what would you say to them?

Sheila Capperauld: Oh good question Stormy. I would probably emphasize the fact how fulfilling it is to have that feeling of giving back to the community in that way.

Stormy Bell: Okay. Very cool. Now I’m gonna give you an opportunity. You’ve already talked about the different places you volunteer, I want you to love on [the] places you volunteer. You can pick one, you can do it to all, but tell me about them. Just love on them.

Sheila Capperauld: Probably my Friday mornings at the library would be the biggest love on because it is so rewarding seeing the smiles of the children and seeing the growth. I go in every other week and I’ve been doing it for over a year now so I get some of the same children back. As they grow and as they get to know me and you know, when they first come in they’re just kind of timid and shy and hiding behind mom or grandma that have brought them in. As we engage in all these activities, I finally get that little smile and that, you know, encouragement that I’m doing the right thing. We’ve got a good rapport now with the ones that have been coming for a while and that joy of sharing books and literature, which is so vital to their success when they get to school.

Stormy Bell: That’s awesome. I appreciate that. Well, I wanna thank you for being my guest today. It was delightful to hear about your adventures and I hope to have you on again sometime. We’ll talk more about the library or actually you’re gonna come on and tell me how the program with the dog goes.

Sheila Capperauld: Absolutely. I’m so looking forward to that.

Stormy Bell: Come back and tell me about that. We’ll schedule that.

Sheila Capperauld: We’ve got the time difference figured out now.

Stormy Bell: Your beginning is my end so we’re good. Wonderful. All right, thank you so much.

Sheila Capperauld: Thank you, Stormy.

Show Notes & Links
Pickleball Association of NSW –
Canine Court Companion Program –

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