THE Nugagahakumburas consider Carolyn Cook a part of their family, even though they are not related by blood.
Ms Cook, of Craigieburn, is a volunteer with the Very Special Kids charity which helps children with life-threatening conditions.
Around 10 months ago, she started volunteering with the Nugagahakumburas, whose five-year-old daughter is unable to walk, talk or see, due to severe cerebral palsy and respiratory issues.
Ms Cook visits the Greenvale family most Thursdays to see Anuli’s brother, 13-year-old Chithira.
Father Thusitha Nugagahakumbura said Ms Cook did activities such as cooking, going to the movies and playing Monopoly with Chithira.
Mr Nugagahakumbura said that because of the time he and his wife needed to devote to caring to Anuli’s complex medical needs, Chithira sometimes missed out on pastimes enjoyed by many other children.
But with Ms Cook as his “special friend”, Chithira can participate in these things.
“Chithira is very happy when Carolyn is around,” Mr Nugagahakumbura said.
“He’s waiting every Thursday to see her and every Wednesday he is asking me what the plan for the week is.
“We found it easy, it was comfortable meeting Carolyn and getting to know her.
“I know the value of volunteering and she is part of our family now.”
Ms Cook said the family’s appreciation made her role rewarding.
“Chithira and I have a bond,” she said.
“One day he told me he really looks forward to seeing me and this really enforced the reason I volunteer.”
Volunteers complete a 27-hour training program. If you can help support families in Hume and surrounds, head along to the Very Special Kids Information Day on February 15, from 6.30pm to 7.30pm at the Craigieburn Global Learning Centre. Phone 9804 6222 for details, to enrol and grab an information pack.
Pic: Very Special Kids Volunteer Carolyn Cook with Anuli Nugagahakumbura and, from left, dad Thusitha, mum Priyanwada and brother Chithira. Picture:Rob Leeson.