Putting Your Hand Up To Help Out
9 Aug 2021
It’s National Student Volunteer Week, an event that recognises the significant skills, ideas, enthusiasm, creativity, and time that students contribute through volunteering. There are many reasons why students choose to volunteer – some do it for experience in a sector where they may want to pursue a career, others do it because they want to connect with a wider group of people, and others do it simply because they love it! Regardless of the reasons why students choose to do it, all volunteers agree that it is an immensely rewarding experience.
Volunteering is proving to be increasingly popular among international students, which on the surface may seem unusual, given that they didn’t grow up in Australia and generally have no vested interests here apart from gaining an education. Yet many are so grateful for the opportunity to study here and are keen to volunteer because they want to give back to their adopted communities. It’s also a great way to meet a wider cross section of people outside of their academic institutions and student groups.
A Serial Volunteer
Ken Dinh recently graduated with a degree in Hospitality from Southern Cross University and describes himself as ‘a serial volunteer’. The Vietnamese student leads an incredibly busy life, actively involved in many student activities both on and off campus, as well as contributing his services to many city events like BLEACH* Festival, the Gold Coast Marathon, the Aspire International Youth Music Festival and Lifeline Bookfest.
In explaining why volunteering is such an important part of his life, Ken says: “I feel like a large part of me wants to bring something good to the world. It reflects how I was taught growing up, that it’s important to put other people before yourself.”
Mitigating social isolation
During the extended national lockdown of 2020, many Gold Coast students volunteered to help others, from delivering groceries and meals to fellow students who had lost their casual jobs and were struggling to survive, to helping other vulnerable members of their communities like the elderly, as well as stepping up to volunteer with local charities.
The Gold Coast Student Hub offers many volunteering opportunities for local students, which provide both meaningful experiences and professional development opportunities. This year more than 35 student volunteers engaged with the Gold Coast Careers Festival, a significant city event that attracted more than 8,000 people across three days. The Festival offered valuable learnings through its required induction and training, and in the process the students were able to observe up close how an event of this scale operates, providing insights into event management practices.
Volunteering Gold Coast is the city’s lead agency for volunteer services and one of their volunteers is Emili M, a young local who enlisted through their Community Visitor Scheme. Emili grew up in Japan where extended families maintain incredibly close bonds with their elders and as such are integrated into their daily lives.
“I wanted to volunteer because I’ve always had a soft spot for older people who don’t have close family or friends. When I saw a story that said 40% of older people don’t have any visitors in Australia that really struck a chord with me. I think it’s really important to be part of your community and this is such a nice way to do it”, she says.
Volunteering Gold Coast are encouraging more students to explore the personal and professional benefits of volunteering, including valuable work experience; enhancing your feelings of self-worth; a refinement of values; an increased understanding of people and community issues; and reducing social isolation. If you’d like to discover the opportunities with Volunteering Gold Coast visit their website here.