Ausnew Home Care | Three people on why they volunteer

Three people on why they volunteer

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If the last three years have taught us anything, it's that community and the support it can provide is a vital lifeline in times of need.

This mindset might have you thinking about how you can give back. I chatted to three volunteers about how and why they choose to give up their time to those in need.

Why Fran helps greyhounds knowing they'll never be her pets

Missing her family dogs after moving from Melbourne to Sydney last year, and wanting to meet new people, Fran Hefferman began volunteering at a rescue centre for ex-racing dogs.

"I volunteer because it helps my mental and physical health, it gives me a sense of community and, ultimately, I get lots of greyhound love," Fran says.

"It also helps to clear my mind and reduces my anxiety from everyday life and work."

While a dog lover like Fran obviously gets a lot out of the bargain, the greyhounds learn a lot from the volunteers about socialisation and adapting to new environments.

"Volunteering with the greyhounds makes me feel like I've played a small part in helping them in their journey to becoming pets," she says.

"Fast forward a few weeks later and I'll see updates online from the owner, posting videos of them thriving at their not-so-new home."

If you're worried that you won't have enough time to commit to volunteering, Fran says finding a balance that works for you is crucial: "I usually do between two to three shifts per month."

Likewise picking an organisation that you're passionate about supporting is important: "I chose Greysland because I greatly admire the work they do caring for and helping the greyhounds adapt to pet life, and the effort they make in matching the right greyhound to the right human."

Thurkka helps refugees settle into regional life

"I read a quote when I was really little that said, 'The only excuse for privilege is to do something with it'," university student Thurkka Jeyakumar says. "That really stuck with me."

"I volunteer because I want to be able to use the privileges that I've been afforded to help others."

Thurkka and her family have a long history of volunteering both here and in Sri Lanka, where she was born. 

However, preparing for her Year 12 exams meant having to take a step back from her volunteering with Settlement Services International.

Once school was done though, Thurkka jumped at an opportunity to help a local Ezidi family through volunteering at Armidale Sanctuary Humanitarian Settlement, a community-run organisation that assists refugees settle in the NSW town.

"When I'd visit I'd be looking after the [four] kids ," says Thurkka, "But I'd also be trying to set things up for the mother like an email, a Centrelink [account], an independent credit card, [helping her to pay] electricity and water bills, just stuff like that so that they could set up their own independent life."

YOUTUBEThe Ezidi refugees calling Armidale home

Thurkka's favourite part of volunteering?

"The connections you build with people and the families. It's just incredible getting to build relationships within such a strong community."

Thurkka Jeyakumar
Thurkka Jeyakumar helps refugees adapt to life in Australia. 

And she has been inspired by the people she's met along the way.

"Some of the people I've met through volunteering with the Ezidi community, especially some of the young girls, are some of the most intelligent people I've ever met," says Thurkka.

"They think extension maths is an absolute breeze, they've learnt a new language in months, and they're doing their family's taxes at the age of 12."

"I think anyone who has the time or the ability to volunteer should really get out there and do it," Thurkka says. "Because you cannot conceptualise the influence you can have for people who really, really deserve it."

Jean helps visually impaired people run with confidence

Jean Flynn is an avid runner who volunteers for parkrun Australia as a guide for visually impaired runners.

According to Jean, finding something that not only helps others, but you will find enjoyable, is key to making volunteering not feel like a chore.

Jean Flynn running
Jean volunteers as a guide for visually impaired runners.(Supplied)

"Initially, I wanted to volunteer because I thought, 'Well, I love running and volunteering is a nice thing to do'," says Jean. "I wanted to help someone in my community, and I thought I can combine the two: volunteer and run at the same time."

Jean had read online about the Melbourne chapter of Achilles International, a running club for people with disability, but soon realised there was no equivalent organisation at home in Ballarat. So Jean asked around and through a fellow parkrun volunteer, she met Lonnie Knight.

"I got introduced to Lonnie and we just kind of muddled through and figured out the best way to do it," says Jean.

"He went and bought a piece of calico, tied a knot in each end, [I] hold one end, Lonnie holds the other end and off we go."

They started running laps of the local baseball diamond about three years ago.

"I was worried that I'd bump him into something, but if we're on an oval I can't bump him into anything, it's pretty flat, no obstacles, and we ran laps for a couple of years. Then I said, 'You know I go to parkrun?' and [I explained] what it is, what it's all about, and he was very keen to come."

It's not just Lonnie who benefits from their weekly runs.

"My favourite part is that Lonnie is extremely happy, he's filled with joy," says Jean. "I have terrible anxiety, I get stressed very easily, but running with Lonnie is not stressful at all."

"I think it's to do with the fact that he is so trusting, he isn't concerned at all, he trusts me entirely to lead him around and not bump him into anything."

Jean and Lonnie are now regular fixtures at the Ballart parkun and they've been embraced wholeheartedly by the local community.

"We run past everyone — or should I say everyone runs past us — and they all really encourage us and just call out lovely things."

If you're considering volunteering for the first time but you're not sure about it, Jean has a message for you: "Just do it, you won't regret it."

"If you've got a bit of spare time, which I reckon we all do, we just think we don't," says Jean.

"We just have to turn the television off, turn our phone off, and go volunteer."

To celebrate 90 years of the ABC connecting communities, we're encouraging Australians to come together and make a pledge: 90 minutes of kindness in your community. 

Make the pledge and share your #ABC90for90 with your friends, family and colleagues. 

Download the #ABC90for90 toolkit. It includes loads of ideas for ways to volunteer and contacts to get you started.


Source: ABC

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