There might be 73 years between them, but Hazel Winowiecki and Katie Wilson are as thick as thieves.
It didn’t take long for Mrs Winowiecki, 94, and Miss Wilson, 21, to strike up a strong friendship after they found each other through HammondCare.
Miss Wilson, who is a fourth year medical student at the University of Newcastle, began her weekly visits with Mrs Winowiecki at the beginning of this year.
She shared her experience with the Herald as part of National Student Volunteers Week, which runs from August 14 to 20.
“We just hit it off straight away,” Miss Wilson said.
“We have an absolute hoot. [Mrs Winowiecki] has the wildest sense of humour – she’s got some stories.
“I decided I really wanted to get into a bit of volunteer work while I was here at uni.
“I’d done a little bit with disabled children and had a little bit of experience visiting the elderly when I was younger and I really loved it.
“I love chatting, I love talking to people.”
Each week, usually on a Saturday afternoon, the pair heads out for coffee, cake and conversation – their favourite topics are gossip and family.
“We like to get out and see what’s going on in town,” Miss Wilson said.
“We talk about our families a lot.”
When asked what her first impression of Miss Wilson was, Mrs Winowiecki said: “Loved her”.
“There should be more [like Miss Wilson],” Mrs Winowiecki said.
“It’s really good. I’m not lonely but I like the company.
“She’s just lovely, she’s got the same nature I had when I was young.”
Miss Wilson grew up on a beef and pecan nut farm in Bangalow on the NSW north coast and moved to the Hunter to study.
She said she had learnt a lot about Newcastle from Mrs Winowiecki, who has spent her whole life in the area.
“I moved to Newcastle not really knowing anyone four years ago,” she said.
“I made a lot of friends through uni, certainly getting involved with Hazel and the other lady I used to go and visit helped me make connections that I probably wouldn’t have had otherwise.
“We can walk down Darby or Beaumont Street or any street where we are trying to find a cafe, Hazel can point out the different buildings and tell me what used to be there.
“I love coming and visiting and hearing all the stories. I enjoy the company as well.”
National Student Volunteer Week aims to highlight the efforts of people who give their time for the genuine benefit of others.
Now in its fifth year, the week also aims to encourage other young people to become volunteers.