Bowling them over in Oamaru

Every Monday afternoon the Iona Chapel, Iona care home Oamaru, is full of noise.  It’s the sound of 30 plus Iona residents enjoying a friendly round of indoor bowls with one another.

Amongst the noise, is a man who volunteers his time to make the bowling happen, Mike De Filippi.

“I began volunteering over two years ago.  My wife and I play indoor bowls as part of the St Pauls Presbyterian Church club and one of the Iona staff asked if I would be interested in arranging bowls for the residents.”

“We started with just four people and now have over 30 who come each week.  There are a team of five volunteers and a couple of Iona staff who assist because we have so many who come along.”

“Some who come have never played indoor bowls before, but they soon get involved. I know a few residents would be playing bowls seven days a week if they could.”

“I’ve had some people tell me that the Iona residents won’t be able to participate because of wheelchairs or walkers, but that’s never been an issue.  We’ve broken that barrier and never had those things stop anyone from getting involved.”

“It’s the largest bowling club in North Otago but there is no President or Committee! The residents just turn up and go for it and it doesn’t matter if your foot is in the wrong place or whatever.  There is always laughing and joking for everyone involved.”

“I just can’t describe the changes that I’ve seen in some of the residents who attend. They soon warm to you and begin to talk.  I never get tired of listening to the fantastic things they have done with their lives.”

“For some of them, if they weren’t playing bowls they would be in their rooms all alone.  After coming along to bowls on Monday they’ve begun to interact with other residents and discover the common connections that they have between themselves.”

Ask Mike how long he thinks the bowling might continue and he chuckles and replies, “If I ever suggested that our club might need to close I think I’d get lynched!”