By JAMIE BERRY
Wednesday 6 December 2000
By his own admission, Phil Nankivell is "pretty pig-headed", and kept working as an electrical fitter in West Heidelberg despite the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
He ignored the symptoms and the pleas of friends and workmates to take it easy until five years ago.
"Eventually it kept wearing me down to the point where I couldn't keep standing up all day and keep doing the heavy work," he said.
Mr Nankivell had stabilised after two years of treatment and injections every second day, but he needed to fill the void left by work.
"I just had a friend who was getting quite ill and he went to a nursing home so I used to visit him there," he said.
It is now four years since Mr Nankivell started work as a volunteer. Sharing his own experiences with fellow MS sufferers and helping them overcome the unpredictability of the chronic neurological disease has been very rewarding.
"They relate to me because I know some of the things they are going through," he said yesterday.
"It just gives you a boost. It makes you realise that there are a lot of people out there that are worse off than yourself."
Virginia Price, coordinator of the MS Society of Victoria's adult day program, said the appearance of Mr Nankivell always lit up a room.
"He's like a peer support person ... exceptional in his social work skills, without having a degree. He's a good listener."
In a year where Sydney's Olympic volunteers became a national treasure, thousands of volunteers were recognised around Australia yesterday, with the official launch of International Year of Volunteers 2001.
While Australia's brigade of 2.8million volunteers were largely overlooked before the Olympics, Community Services Minister Christine Campbell told the hundreds of volunteers at Gasworks Park in Albert Park that goodwill was a vehicle to build friendships and was evidence of a robust community.
Ms Campbell announced a State Government sponsorship of $160,000 for
a festival of volunteers at the Royal Exhibition Buildings next November.