Being with the children gives me purpose; 40 years of volunteering in ECEC

by Freya Lucas

May 21, 2020

Anna Lattas has been volunteering at AnglicareSA’s Daphne Street Early Learning Centre in Prospect since 1980, a remarkable legacy of passion and commitment to the children and families who she has seen “grow up and return with children of their own”.

 

Now 69 years old, Ms Lattas has seen the service grow and evolve, and has been involved in everything from giving children breakfast and looking after babies, to cleaning and organising laundry.

 

With some younger children unable to say Anna, Ms Lattas is affectionately known by many as Nanna. Being with the children and staff gives her “a purpose to get up in the morning,” she said.

 

Being born in the 1950s, and having an intellectual disability, Ms Lattas was led to believe that she would spend the rest of her life mainly within the confines of the family home.

 

Her sister Chrissie said Anna was “very shy, had no opinions, and was put down and told all she can do is clean the house”.

 

“Back then no one considered those with disabilities and even more so when you were from a European background. Anna had no confidence in herself — there was no regard for her and her abilities” she added. 

 

With Chrissie’s support, Ms Lattas, who was awarded Anglicare Australia Volunteer of the Year in 2017, was introduced to the idea of volunteering with AnglicareSA, knowing of her love for children. 

 

“With the children, she’s always felt loved and respected and all of the employees have always thought very highly of her,” Chrissie said, explaining that once her sister began volunteering, “the child care centre and the volunteering made her start to feel like she belonged in the world and society.”

 

Anna’s devotion to the children at AnglicareSA Daphne St is truly unique. At one stage she continued to volunteer despite a hefty early morning commute. “She used to have to catch two busses and was there at 7:30 on the dot to meet parents and children,” Chrissie said. 

 

Anna has devoted her life to supporting children, something which Chrissie says continues to amaze her. “So many local families know Anna — I tell her she’s a celebrity going to the shops with everyone saying hi,” she said.

 

“She goes bowling every weekend and socialises at her local community centre. Anna’s also bilingual in Greek and English and her vocabulary is quite honestly incredible.”

 

Anna said while she “can’t believe” it has been 40 years, not being able to volunteer during the coronavirus pandemic has reminded her how much she loves what she does.

 

“It’s my life — if it wasn’t for my volunteering, I’d be sitting in my unit doing nothing.”

 

National Volunteer Week, held from 18–24 May 2020, is an important time to celebrate and recognise the amazing contributions volunteers make to our community.

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