A full-time job as a tax adviser, with long working days, and regular 5 am CrossFit gym sessions keep Krishan Parmar on his toes. You might think he would take the weekends easy.
But every Saturday and Sunday Krishan (known as KP to his friends) has other plans, giving time to volunteer with Palliative Care ACT, at both Clare Holland House and at Leo’s Place.
While Clare Holland House is a familiar name to Canberrans for its compassionate hospice care, many locals aren’t aware of Leo’s Place in Braddon, which also provides palliative support.
With a warm, light-filled environment, it offers a home away from home and respite for people with life-limiting illnesses and their carers.
At Clare Holland House, Krishan helps the chef and feeds residents, but at Leo’s Place, his work is more directed by what guests want to do.
Many prefer to have their meals at different times and sometimes to lunch outside in the pleasant garden. Krishan’s activities might include making tea, coffee or light snacks for guests, helping the trained carers make beds or vacuum floors, playing a game of chess with guests or simply taking the time to chat with them.
“It can get busy,” he says. “Sometimes I take someone for a walk down to the Haig Park markets. Most can walk unaided but some prefer to be pushed in a wheelchair. We might be out for an hour or two.”
His face creases into a smile as he remembers one recent guest who was enjoying the wheelchair ride so much he urged Krishan to “keep going, keep going”.
Krishan loves the idea of giving back to the community and says looking after his grandma, who lived with his family until she died at 98, inspires his volunteer work.
Originally from India, she was expelled from Africa during the Idi Amin era of the 1970s and landed in the UK as a widow with two young boys. Krishan was born in Birmingham in the UK and moved to Canberra in 2019 to expand his horizons.
“I’d always wanted to go overseas and Australia appealed with its outdoor lifestyle,” he says.
This year his firm, Nexia Australia, recognised him with an excellence award for community services but Krishan says he doesn’t volunteer for any acknowledgement.
“I see it as a way of connecting with my grandma and being a role model for my niece Arya, four, and nephew Aaran, seven.”
He is close to his family who still live in the UK.
“I miss them all but I’m settled here and I’ve just bought a house in Forde. Canberra wasn’t on my radar when I was touring Australia in 2018 looking for job opportunities.”
There weren’t many firms seeking his expertise in UK tax law but an agent called, saying there was such a job in Canberra. He’s glad he arrived here.
“People are really friendly and I love the hikes, with nature on our doorstep. For instance, on my way to CrossFit the other morning I saw a mob of kangaroos. I love the arboretum and I climbed to the top of Mt Kosciusko last year in the snow. I look forward to going again in summer.”
Krishan is inspired by a framed quotation at Leo’s Place: “Be the reason someone smiles today.” He says: “If I can make someone smile, it brightens my day.”
He also recalls Mahatma Gandhi’s advice that “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”.
“My grandma, or Ba as we called her, always spoke of the importance of serving others, not necessarily with money but with time,” he says.
“I suppose it’s one of the perks of being free and single – helping other people. Here it is a privileged experience to talk to guests. Sometimes people are very open in speaking to a stranger rather than a family member.
“It teaches you a lot about compassion, empathy and patience. I don’t do it to get anything back but, as in all walks of life, you end up getting more back than you put in. I’ve been blessed to have good, hard-working parents and I want to keep my parents proud of me.”
Leo’s Place offers overnight and day respite for people with a life-limiting illness, allowing carers to have a short break – or to stay if they wish.
“The beauty of Leo’s Place is guests can develop friendships,” Krishan says. “They can talk and mingle.”