Unsung Heroes

Interview with Helen Cowley (Physiotherapist)


So many unsung heroes are working day in and day out at SOS Health Foundation. They are making a huge impact by giving of themselves, donating their time and using their skills.

I have recently had the privilege of having a chat with one of our hard working Volunteers to discover more about her – Paulina Smith

Helen Cowley - Volunteer #2Helen Cowley is a Brisbane girl through and through. She was born and raised in a farm near Towoomba. The youngest of five children, she eagerly awaited her turn to leave the shelter of her parents wings and go to Brisbane to study Physiotherapy at the University of Queesnsland.

She is a sports enthusiast enjoying bike riding and recently completing the overland hike in Tasmania. She is married, a mother of three children (one to be married in June this year) and during her professional life she has experienced many different types of roles as a physiotherapist.

In her early years she was the co- owner of a thriving physiotherapy practice whilst juggling family life and children. She has worked for others in the private practice setting and has been involved in pain management clinics and education. Helen currently teaches at the Australian Catholic University in Queensland and loves inputing and developing the next generation of clinicians.

Helen is no stranger to the motto “People matter”. When an old friend and bike riding partner had shared the need at a local men’s hostel. She started to make weekly visits to see how she could assist and serve that community. A year later she saw an “InMotion” advertisement about the SOS Health Foundation probono clinic in Brisbane and was keen and ready to join… three years on and she is still going strong.

When asked what drew her to the SOS Health advertisement Helen says “I was excited that SOS had been founded by a Physio and because it recognized the value of what we do. Our presence in these areas of need provides physiotherapists the opportunity to get into the community, to serve people whilst educating them. In so doing it elevates the community’s understanding and perception of the physiotherapy industry as a profession. Whatever raises the profiles of Physiotherapists and helps us to be recognized by the government as a paid and unique profession is a win for the clients and for the professionals in the long term.” 

“I was excited about being a part of something bigger. SOS Health is an incredible organization” says Helen. When asked if she felt supported in her role as an SOS Health volunteer she said “Yes, Lynda Cunningham’s (SOS Health Foundation Manager) support is invaluable, the IT system is excellent although we have had some ongoing challenges with it. The clinic has a lot of supplies, and is well resourced. If there is anything we need it is sent to us promptly.”

“The other volunteers (although we would love some more) are great to work with. Everyone is busy, but we make time in our weeks to give back.”

The Brisbane Probono Clinic is just one of the services that the SOS Health Foundation provides. It is located in the Salvation Army, Pindary Homeless Centre.  The clinic has been running since 2014 and is staffed by volunteers every Tuesday morning. We have treated more than 130 clients in this centre alone, approximately $30K of probing physiotherapy services. This is a direct investment into people and our local community. The Brisbane Probono Physio clinic is one of six programs supported and funded by the Back in Motion Health Group, “Work for Significance” day, various fundraising events and activies, the Founders and the many generous personal donations. We work hard to ensure that every dollar is well utilized and goes to making a profound impact in the lives of the people that SOS Health Foundation serves. We are having a small but significance impact in the lives of many people everyday.

“The roles in the pro bono clinic in Brisbane are varied, it’s always interesting as you will get a range of acute and chronic types of injuries. They may have been caused by old work related injuries or through physical violence experienced whilst sleeping in the streets.

“The patient population is transient in nature. Some clients may come once maybe twice, so in the time we have with each client” Helen says, “we want to help make their day better now, addressing what is most important to them today.  At the same time, we want to leave them with a very strong sense that physiotherapy is something that can also help them in the future. It’s to give them hope that there is a solution to some of the long term physical problems that they are facing.” 

“The support encouragement and hope that we can give these individuals who have lost so much can really make the difference.”

The work we do in our probono clinics doesn’t fix homelessness. Just like there is no magic physio treatment that fixes back pain instantly. These are huge issues, but reliable and consistent assistance and support can go a long way with a person’s wholeness and well-being. Its only when we all do our part that these things will improve. Let’s give out of our generosity because each individual is valuable… because People matter.


Fast facts
Last picture on iPhone: Picture of my “Mintie” 16yr old border collie
Dream job as a child growing up: Back-up singer to Leonard Cohen
How do you want to be remembered:  I want to be remembered as a great dessert maker. I want to be remembered kindly by family and friends and that when they think of me I will bring a smile to their face.
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