Brian Jarvie - a big smile speaks a thousand words

22 Sep 2021

For Whitianga resident, Brian Jarvie, independent living isn’t easy. And words in any format don’t come easy either. 

Brian likes getting out and about around town. He has a passion for construction and earthworks, and loves nothing more than keeping tabs on big projects such as the Whitianga town upgrade, where he was made an honorary member of the construction team.

Brian’s eyes and cheerful face do most of the talking when you strike up a chat. When asked if he had ever been taken for a drive in one of the big earthmoving trucks at the Whitianga Waterways, his face lit up like a beacon and no words were necessary, the answer was there for all to see.

 It’s amazing how a bit of local generosity that costs virtually zero can go a long way at times.   

Brian, originally from the South Island, moved to Whitianga after the Christchurch earthquakes and is loving being part of the local community.   

When at home, he potters in his garden, loves a meal of meat and veg, works with ceramic tiles and enjoys watching motor racing on TV, in particular the Supercar Championship from Australia. He is a big fan of current championship leader and fellow Kiwi, Shane Van Gisbergen, another man who is rarely seen without a smile, which makes the connection even more special. 

But like many men in the community of a similar age, 69-year-old Brian was often lacking a bit of extra company and having some sort of project on the go.  

Enter Julie Beaufill who works full-time for Waikato Regional Council and is passionate about doing something meaningful for the community involving people. She joined Age Concern as a volunteer around three years ago and was eventually matched with Brian because it was felt their personalities and interests were a good fit. 

“The commitment I made to Age Concern at the start was to provide an hour a week where my sole focus was on my volunteer work, and in this case connecting with Brian and making sure his needs were being met,” says Julie. “What has developed has been a great friendship. We go for coffees and bike rides together or just sit and enjoy each other’s company. I don’t think Brian realises the positive impression he leaves me with during our time together says Julie”. 

Ever on the lookout for something new and beneficial for Brian to do, Julie introduced him to the Whitianga MenzShed located on South Highway around 18 months ago. “It has been an awesome experience for Brian with the MenzShed becoming a really important part of his life,” says Julie. “MenzShed secretary, Kevin Robinson, has taken Brian under his wing, given him some responsibilities and generally made him feel part of the team. It’s like Brian and the Menzshed have adopted one another.”

Kevin and Menzshed Whitianga president, Brian Mearns, are equally thrilled to have Brian join their ranks. “Brian fits in really well and even has his own chair in the smoko room which you don’t dare sit on, and a dust coat with his name embroidered on,” says Kevin. “He has a love for machinery and picks out models to build from hobby books we have. His collection of hand built trucks, trailers and earthmoving machinery all made from recycled timber is growing. The books provide clear pictures and dimensions which Brian can use as a guide, but he puts his own flair and ideas into each project. 

“We love having him on our team, he is always looking to help others with their projects or carrying out regular duties to keep the shed clean and tidy. There is a lot said about mental health these days and I can honestly say having Brian onboard provides all our members with huge satisfaction and helps with our own well-being.” 

“It also proves a big smile and happy face can replace a thousand words at times,” adds Brian Mearns.

While Brian Jarvie has his challenges in life, people like Julie and those at the Menzshed who are prepared to give up a bit of time to ensure he doesn’t lack for company and has a place in the community are often the ones who end up gaining the most from the experience.   

The popularity of the Whitianga Menzshed continues to outstrip current available space and fundraising is underway for a new and bigger building.  All donations are gratefully accepted. Please get in touch with Brian Mearns (phone number 021 483 533) or Kevin Robinson (phone number 021 336 864) or email whitiangamenzshed@gmail.com for more information.

Age Concern provides an accredited visitor service to the elderly in the Thames-Coromandel District who are experiencing loneliness or isolation, and are in need of social connection. They currently have more than 100 volunteers visiting 106 people. They are always keen to hear from prospective volunteers. As much as possible they try and match people by shared interest. 

If anyone is interested in volunteering as a visitor for Age Concern, they can get in touch by emailing jude@ageconcern.gen.nz or thamesmanager@ageconcern.gen.nz. They can also check out www.volunteeringwaikato.org.nz for other volunteering opportunities that may be of interest to them.

Pictured: The Whitianga MenzShed is a happy place for Brian Jarvie (on the left). With him in the photo are fellow MenzShed members, Kevin Robinson (next to Brian) and Brian Mearns, and Age Concern volunteer, Julie Beaufill.