Have you ever considered volunteering? Read some firsthand stories from the people who are working to make their community a better place.
Myly Nguyen, President of the Vietnamese Association of Hobsons Bay
I arrived in Australia in 1981 as a boat refugee. When I arrived in Australia on my own and the Vietnamese community was really small and they asked me to organise a youth group. I started and supported a youth Buddhist group and from then the volunteering just started. I think volunteering is part of my life, I’m passionate about it.
I remember when I first arrived I purchased a house in Hobsons Bay, in Altona North, and there were only two or three Vietnamese families at that time. I wrote a letter and sent it out across the Vietnamese community in Hobsons Bay and said we have been here so long it would be nice to do something for the local area. I asked for their involvement and suddenly, BANG, I got about 40 hands up and that is how it started. We have begun to build confidence and trust among the group. We established in January 2017 and we feel we do a lot.
Two thirds of our members had never done volunteer work before so they kept asking, ‘How am I going to do it?’. From then I realised that before we start doing anything we have to train ourselves, in a way we become one.
You do things for me. Now you have to think about doing things for the whole, as we. And from we is us. And so from then on I made it clear to every member who joined that we try to remove that me - it is not only me here. We have something broader. We and us. If we have that attitude we can contribute our skills to the local community and to others.
our members are really eager and they keep telling me ‘Yes we will join - whatever event or activity, whatever we can contribute, we will support you and put our hand up’. And so I can see that building that community resilience really fits into that change of the mindset for people who never volunteered before, never done community work before, and now suddenly BANG, they are really skilled. I provide them a lot of training to develop a healthy mindset and to understand the importance of a sense of belonging to the local area where they live, not just for themselves, but for their children, their grandchildren as well.
I’m really passionate about community work and I want to share that passion with others. I want to build a community, volunteer and work with others, and make others involved like me too, because I’m always passionate, I’m always do volunteer in a way I feel the outcome is rewarding and your skill and your knowledge is not wasted.
When you volunteer, think about it outside the box. Don't just do the job, the task, because you think you have the skill. You have to be passionate and you have to think about the contribution you put in there; your time, your skills, your knowledge. Even if you help one or two people that will make a difference.
My volunteering focus is on culture's capacity to maintain and develop cultural identity. This cultural resilience is an important point for me. Despite the challenges that many members of the Association are facing such as lack of professional skills and knowledge, I always encourage them to maintain critical cultural knowledge and practices. The ability to maintain the cultural identity and knowledge are important indicators of social sustainability.
Jessamy Evans, Wynbay L2P Mentor
With volunteering you get to see different opportunities. I saw a call out for volunteers for supervising drivers and I still remember when I was learning to drive. It was a big thing! I felt like I wanted to be part of someone else's journey.
I remember when I was learning to drive, I was nineteen. I was in Melbourne and my parents were in the country. I didn't have any sort of family close by for me to practice with. I had an incident on public transport when I was nineteen that meant I couldn’t use public transport anymore. It made me very paranoid and fearful. So I had to get my license so I could get to work. Also, having a car would like be my next step for freedom. So I had driving lessons and my driving instructor was fantastic. I still hear her voice in my head when I’m driving. And I felt like I could give that sort of experience to someone else. I think everyone deserves that kind of freedom to have a car, they deserve to get it and money shouldn't stop them and other family situations shouldn't stop them. There's like a special place in my heart to help young people to get a license because I know how much it meant to me. I still remember, I was so scared, like super scared. I didn’t want to drive on roads. I was just petrified. So I understand what they might feel like.
Even if everything else in my life is going badly, I know that I have a purpose. I can't let my learners down. I think having that sense of responsibility gives you a sense of belonging. And you know, sometimes things don't work out in life, and that's just how it is. But if you have something else to focus on - it might not be a big thing - but it makes a big difference.
I’ve done a lot of things, like meeting different people, making new friends – that’s what has happened to me through volunteering. I’ve established connections within the community because there are opportunities out there that you don't know about. There’s that old saying, ‘It's not what you know, it's who you know’ and it is true. But you need to put yourself out there. You need to not be afraid. I was scared to do things on my own and go to places on my own. I'm not scared anymore. What for? I know everyone now. Everyone knows me. Almost!
Could you be a volunteer driving mentor? Or maybe you know a young person who needs some extra support to get their licence. Learn more about WynBay L2P
Nicole Baskerville, CWA Altona Executive Member
I wanted to be a part of the community through volunteering and also to make friends and meet new people. As I haven’t lived in Altona long, it was important to me to really commit to settling in to the area. By volunteering you find you grow on a personal level, and also you learn from others around you – that you may not have any interactions with on a day-to-day.
Having a demanding full-time role, it’s refreshing to take some time and give back to my community in some way.
I joined CWA a few months ago, so I haven't been with CWA long. Since joining I am now lucky enough to be on the executive, with my role being to coordinate and support local events to raise money for charity as well as connecting with the community. We pay particular attention to the happenings around Altona and try to find projects were we can lend support or engage with others, but also to help people in the community that are maybe mums or women in the community to feel empowered to come along and hang out with us. I think there's a bit of stigma surrounding the CWA, that it's only for older women, that you have to be good at craft or sewing or cooking to be a member, and that's it. Truth be told, I'm not amazing at sewing and when it comes to cooking I can be a bit hit and miss. What people should focus on is the amount of fundraising and wonderful work that we do in helping communities grow as well as supporting the women and children in the community.
The CWA is an inclusive organisation – we are women who come from different walks of life, all working together for a common goal. I feel proud to be a CWA member and the wonderful work we do – whether it is raising funds for the community, engaging with members of the community and supporting women and children when they need it most.
When it comes to volunteering the first step is just reach out and asking an organisation what's involved and how they could help? If it sounds like it might be too much for you that's fine, have a look at something else. Don't feel like it's always going to be a “big commitment” once you hear the word volunteering – more often than not, it isn’t. With Christmas fast approaching I would encourage people to have a look around your area and see what drives there are, whether it's your school or church or a local organisation and see what they're doing. Do they know that people in the community need food? Is it some presents? Is it cosmetics? Can I make a monetary donation? Is there something I could make and give?
What's most important to me is helping my community grow and people to feel a part of something.
Annette Stephens, Latitude: Directions for Young People, Committee of Management
I support Latitude. I think it’s a worthy cause. I think homelessness is a community problem and should be solved by the community. I don’t think these services would stay local if it didn’t have a community run governance system – the big agencies would take it over then you would lose a lot of that personal touch and the ability to access these facilities easily. You can see we are on Somers Parade here so people can drop in, many people drop in from all walks of life, wondering what we are doing here, wondering what it is. It is accessible and of course the staff here are fantastic.
I think homelessness is a very big problem in our society and all the problems that are associated with why people are homeless. It is multilayered. I love Altona. I have a civic pride about myself that I think I should help out and do something worthwhile. You need a strong community to have a good environment to live in. I love to live here. I want it to be safe, I want it to be strong, I want it to be happy, I want it to be efficient and functional. I want services here, so I do think that volunteering does promote resilience in my world and I hope for the rest of the community.
You should volunteer. For me it keeps me young. It keeps me involved in the community. I’ve met many friends and new people that I would never have met before. But you are volunteering your time. It is not a paid employment and often people don’t have the time. But I highly recommend it. I highly recommend you should try to do something to improve your community and perhaps improve your self-esteem, your life, challenge yourself. You have to meet new people, and you have to talk! It’s learning, it’s a new experience. You’re never too old to learn.
Learn more about Latitude: Directions for Young People