Very Special Kids show Excellence in Volunteering

2017 State Awards – Excellence Award recipient Very Special Kids. Photo Credit: Frank Amato

Malvern-based not for profit Very Special Kids (VSK) had the honour of receiving the Volunteering Victoria State Award for Excellence in November last year.

Established in 1985, the organisation cares for children with life-threatening conditions by providing Victoria’s only children’s hospice and professional support services to families.

The organisation is currently supported by over 1,000 volunteers, who are divided into two streams:

  • Family Services Volunteers assist families in the family home, when the child is admitted to hospital, when the child is at Very Special Kids Hospice and by participating in program activities.
  • Friends Volunteers provide practical fundraising support with the events team. Friends Volunteers assist with administration, gardening, maintenance, community events, public relations and a ‘thank you call program’.

Volunteer Coordinators Nathan Brown and Lou Cooney manage a wide variety of volunteers of all age groups and backgrounds, united in their passion for supporting children and their families during the most difficult time of their lives.

CEO Michael Wasley said the Family Service Volunteers support families with the practical and emotional demands of caring for their child.  This can take place in the family home, at hospital or when the child is at Very Special Kids Hospice.

One such volunteer is Jess. Jess is a 22-year-old university student and despite a busy schedule of studying and working part time in hospitality, she spends every Thursday afternoon at the Very Special Kids Hospice.

Jess has a special connection with the child she visits, who has a condition with no cure, and offers much needed respite to the child’s parents who can feel safe knowing that Jess will give their child her undivided attention.

Volunteers like Jess make a huge difference to the lives of families. One parent says:

“Very Special Kids is the best source of support by far we have received ever in our journey with Abby. The hospice provides an incredible and caring environment for much needed sleep and we think the support and time from Mary Connell our volunteer is unmatched- she is wonderful and the children love her.”

CEO Michael Wasley says that a dedication to excellence in volunteering by the entire organisation has been vital to the program’s success.

“Very Special Kids goes above and beyond to create the best volunteer experience possible for the 1,000 plus volunteers which, while the volunteer program is well staffed, it is the responsibility of all people in the organisation at every level.”

“We strive to constantly model The National Standards for Involving Volunteers in Not for profit Organisations to ensure each and every one of our volunteer’s rights are protected, that their role is clear and that they work in a safe and healthy environment.”

And it’s paying off. A recent volunteer satisfaction survey found that 100% of volunteers surveyed would recommend Very Special Kids to a friend, with 95% of volunteers rating their volunteer experience as excellent (5% as good).

Congratulations to Very Special Kids on their well-deserved Excellence Award at the 2017 Volunteering Victoria State Volunteer Awards.

You can read the full list of winners here.

 

AIA deepens its commitment to volunteering

2017 State Awards – Employee Volunteering Award recipient AIA. Photo Credit: Frank Amato

AIA Australia’s commitment to making a difference was recognised with the company winning the Employee Volunteering Award at the Volunteering Victoria State Awards.

AIA proudly promotes health and welfare through its life insurance and wellness products. Additionally, the company supports people in need through community initiatives and partnerships.

For AIA, rolling up your sleeves and getting involved means enabling employees to contribute one day per year to participate in volunteering activities. This volunteering is channelled through three partner organisations including Ardoch’s “Literacy Buddies” program, where AIA employees have worked with Sacred Heart Primary School for many years.

Ardoch’s National Programs Manager, Adele Stowe-Lindner, commended AIA’s long-standing support for the school with over 150 AIA employees volunteering over 6 years.

The Literacy Buddies programs allows employees to forge strong relationships with students through a pen pal program. Grade 5 and 6 students are paired with AIA staff and exchange handwritten letters throughout the year. In addition, the “Big Buddies” attend the school once a year and the “Little Buddies” also enjoy an exciting trip to the AIA offices.

The program not only develops the young students’ writing skills, it provides a window to a world beyond the classroom. The students are seen to be more purposeful with their writing and eager to learn more from their Big Buddies, who represent positive adult role models.

AIA’s contribution has extended also to the Learning Through Lunch program. While sharing a meal with Big Buddies at a nearby restaurant, students learn about hospitality careers, dining etiquette and exotic foods. Most importantly, the experience provides another opportunity to build relationships with positive adult role models.

A powerful feature of AIA’s volunteer program is that it has adapted to the school’s needs. Last year, AIA Big Buddies were only too keen to attend and help facilitate the first whole-school excursion to the beach. Considering most students had never seen the beach, this was an extraordinary experience for all.

Sacred Heart Primary School highly values AIA’s volunteer support. Furthermore, Ardoch’s annual survey of Employee Volunteers shows the program is achieving significant impact for the students. Between 72%-90% of teachers surveyed agreed:

  • the program helped make literacy more interesting and fun for students;
  • the program provided positive role models for students;
  • the students learned about their Big Buddies’ workplace and jobs; and
  • they noticed improvement in the quality of the letters children were writing during the program.

Congratulations to AIA on their well-deserved Employee Volunteering Award at the 2017 Volunteering Victoria State Volunteer Awards.

You can read the full list of winners here.

Volunteer research becomes comprehensive online resource for sport and recreation industry

2017 State Awards – Thought Leadership Award recipient Dr. Pam Kappelides, Latrobe University. Photo Credit: Frank Amato

Academic researcher Dr Pam Kappelides of La Trobe University has been recognised with a Thought Leadership Award at the recent Volunteering Victoria State Volunteer Awards.

Dr Kappelides has applied highly developed research and training skills in the development of a resource kit that contributes important practical knowledge to the field of volunteering: in particular, the sport, recreation and disability sectors.

Dr Kappelides saw the need to address the under-representation of volunteers with a disability in the not for profit sector. There was limited research and few resources examining the barriers to including individuals with disabilities in volunteering, and even less research examining potential solutions. Volunteers and paid staff had no central and current resources that they could use in their programs.

Dr Kappelides’ research filled this gap by examining the benefits and barriers to including volunteers with disabilities in programs and services. The knowledge accrued from her 25-year track record of volunteering research was articulated through the development of a resource manual and website.

In 2013, funding from Sport and Recreation Victoria enabled Dr Kappelides to compile the manual and website which she titled “Be prepared! A resource guide for volunteers working with people with a disability in the active recreation and sport sector”. The resource aims to improve volunteer opportunities among volunteers in the not-for-profit sector; promote inclusion for people with a disability in volunteering; and improve volunteer management procedures and practices throughout programs and services across Victoria.

View the kit here.

Dr Kappelides developed the kit with a project editorial team from Sport and Recreation Victoria, Knox City Council, Yooralla, Scope, People Outdoors, YMCA and volunteers from the sport and recreation sector. Launched in 2014, it has been highly acclaimed within the sport and recreation industries in Australia and internationally. The kit represents a significant achievement demonstrating Dr Kappelides’ collaboration with a number of key stakeholders in bringing this resource together.

Testimonials reflect that the manual and website, plus face to face training delivered by Dr Kappelides using the resource, have enhanced the ability of many organisations and volunteer managers to prepare and support volunteers in direct program delivery.

Dr Kappelides continues with concurrent research projects in the area of volunteer management as an extension of the resource kit. She is connecting with organisations and providing support, training and resources to enable organisations to engage with people with disabilities as volunteers.

Dr Kappelides has also coordinated the undergraduate subject Volunteer Management at La Trobe University. Over the past 6 years she has equipped more than 1200 students with the fundamentals of volunteer management practices which they take with them to careers in sport, recreation, health, events and business.

Dr Kappelides has worked tirelessly to develop curriculum and resources that are engaging and up to date both from her experience of the voluntary sector and her extensive body of volunteering research.

Congratulations to Dr Kappelides on her well-deserved Thought Leadership Award at the 2017 Volunteering Victoria State Volunteer Awards.

You can read the full list of winners here.

 

ASRC’s Human Rights Law Program took Fast Track to Innovation Accolade

2017 State Awards – Innovation Award recipient Human Rights Law Program Fast Track Clinics Asylum Seeker Resource Centre Photo Credit: Frank Amato

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre’s (ASRC) Fast Track Clinics have won the Innovation Award at the Volunteering Victoria State Awards.

The ASRC Human Rights Law Program (HRLP) is a community legal centre which provides free, expert immigration legal services to people seeking asylum. With the service already under pressure, the Government’s decision to apply a tight deadline for receipt of protection claims for persons seeking asylum who were subject to the government Fast Track process, put thousands of people in an impossible position of having nowhere to turn to get help preparing their applications.

Thinking “outside the box” to solve a complex problem, the ASRC’s HRLP created Fast Track legal Clinics at a time when resources were stretched to the limit. The initiative made use of precious available resources to devote maximum effort during a peak workload.

The Fast Track Clinics were designed to ensure people seeking asylum received quality advice and assistance, with the aim of completing entire applications for protection in one sitting.

The operation mobilised extra resources through creating an innovative partnership between corporate legal services volunteers and ASRC volunteers. The team also enlisted help from the Law School at La Trobe University. Law students and volunteers received training which enabled them to support the immigration lawyers to tackle the long waiting list of clients created by the newly imposed tight deadline.

ASRC also drew in community support by sourcing donations through social media. The well-received #keepthemsafe campaign raised more than $400,000 which funded dedicated “Fast Track” solicitors and administrators. Importantly, 188 legal professionals came forward to provide pro-bono assistance through ASRC’s Fast Track Clinics.

Amy Simpson, Legal Practice and Volunteer Coordinator at ASRC, reflected on the effectiveness of the program:

“The volunteer assistance has been critical in providing essential legal services to so many people facing this challenging protection visa application process. The HRLP’s Fast Track work, including our Fast Track Clinics, assisted over 700 clients (approximately 890 people including family members and children) to lodge applications for protection visas before the 1 October 2017 deadline. Furthermore, this program has had a wider benefit for the community.”

Achieving the most important objective of the Fast Track program ensured people seeking asylum were provided with access to legal support and representation.

The impact of this significant undertaking not only made an enormous difference in the lives of disadvantaged individuals, but also represented an incomparable education opportunity for the legal practitioners involved at all levels.

Congratulations to ASRC on their well-deserved Innovation Award at the 2017 Volunteering Victoria State Volunteer Awards.

You can read the full list of winners here.

Enliven enriches local community through inclusion

2017 State Awards – Inclusion Award recipients Afghan and Tamil, enliven Victoria. Photo Credit: Frank Amato

Nestled in Melbourne’s south east, enliven Victoria has proven itself to be dedicated to inclusion across their organisation. In fact, they’ve done this so well that they scored themselves the 2017 Volunteering Victoria State Award for Inclusion.

Specific to their award, enliven showcased their support for the local Afghan and Tamil community through the refugee health program. Specifically, their peer education program empowers local refugee and migrant volunteers to deliver health promotion messages within their own communities, improving the health literacy of the participants.

Mitchell Bowden, enliven’s Refugee Health Project Manager says of their volunteers: “Their enduring commitment to empowering community members to have good health is admirable, as is their altruism and willingness to go beyond their comfort zones for community benefit. “

enliven’s inclusion of these volunteers hasn’t just been in the implementation of the project. Their involvement in co-designing the program from the outset allowed well respected members of these communities to ensure that the program was appropriate to their needs and that it was communicated in a culturally sensitive way.

The outcome of the program has been outstanding, with 966 community members attending 65 volunteer-led health information sessions to date. The large majority of these attendees have been refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants who have been in Australia less than 5 years.

More importantly, feedback from the sessions indicated that there was a significant increase in understanding of health and local support services, most notably around mental health, community health services and how to access out of hours help.

Like any good volunteer program, participating volunteers have become great community advocates with Bowden saying “Anecdotal feedback indicates that outside of these 65 formal sessions, volunteers also continue to champion the key health messages in their daily interactions with their community.”

At Volunteering Victoria, we know that there has been a significant increase in the call for volunteer places for refugee, asylum seekers and new migrants. We commend enliven for their active engagement with these new communities which have wide reaching impacts for inclusion across the whole of Victoria.

Hazel Maynard: A lifetime of service in volunteer leadership roles

2017 State Awards – Excellence Award recipients Tehree Gordon, Jirrahlinga Koala & Wildlife Sanctuary and Hazel Maynard, Volunteering Victoria. Photo Credit: Frank Amato

Dedicated volunteer leader Hazel Maynard received a Life-time Achievement Award at the recent Volunteering Victoria State Volunteer Awards. The honour recognises long-standing, distinguished and meritorious service to the volunteering sector in a leadership role over at least seven years.

With 26 years of outstanding contribution to the not for profit sector, Hazel Maynard’s service is highly deserving of this award.

Hazel’s distinguished track record includes key roles in Australia’s leading charities, including:

  • Australian Red Cross – Hazel established an effective asylum seeker support service, where she pioneered skilled volunteer matching. It was a highly successful initiative and transformed the way volunteers were subsequently recruited and trained across many other programs.
  • Cancer Council – she reinvigorated a state-wide volunteer program, turning it into a buoyant and profitable venture.
  • St Vincent de Paul – Hazel developed and nurtured a group of geographically dispersed volunteers, resulting in a highly regarded and effective volunteer program, and increased volunteer retention rates.

A volunteer for much of her life, Hazel joined St John Ambulance Brigade as a volunteer first aider at age 11 mostly because she liked the uniform – unfortunately this was a short-lived venture as she fainted at the sight of blood on her first assignment! Despite this initial set back, she continued to volunteer for many sporting events.

Among her long list of leadership endeavours, Hazel held roles on the board of Volunteering Victoria from 2006, including President 2008 to 2010 where she shared her expertise in volunteer leadership. Many of Hazel’s articles relating to volunteer management published in professional journals and are well-regarded in the sector.

Hazel’s personal commitment as a member of the City Network of Managers of Volunteers since 2005, and Network Facilitator from 2014 to 2016, comes from her passionate support for valuable volunteers. She is well known for assisting newcomers to the sector and has delivered pro-bono training to many not for profit agencies.

Seeing a need in the sector to support leaders to deal with the more difficult parts of their job, Hazel developed a training program called “The ‘Tuff’ Stuff” which covers all aspects of volunteer performance counselling from policy development to delivering the message. Collaborating with Justice Connect and Clayton Utz, Hazel also helped deliver the first ever workshop in Victoria entitled “The Legal Aspects of Working with Volunteers” in 2009. This workshop is still being delivered by Justice Connect using Hazel’s common-sense training model.

Ann Downing and Rhosheen Meyers reflected on their former St Vincent de Paul colleague’s achievements:

“Put simply, we doubt if there is anyone more deserving of this Lifetime Achievement Award than Hazel Maynard who, for the past 26 years, has championed the cause of volunteers and refugees.

“Over the years she earned their respect and acknowledgement for the enormity of her achievements.”

The impact of Hazel’s work in the not for profit and volunteer management arena is wide-ranging and widely appreciated. She has been commended as an inspirational speaker who is always willing to share her expertise to strengthen volunteer management within community organisations.

Congratulations to Hazel on her well-deserved Life-time Achievement Award at the 2017 Volunteering Victoria State Volunteer Awards.

You can read the full list of winners here.

International students join festivities at this year’s Spring Fling

A small group of international students joined the festivities at the vibrant Spring Fling Festival in North Melbourne, through a partnership between Study Melbourne and Volunteering Victoria.

The partnership, Study Melbourne Live Volunteers is a year-long pilot project that aims to enhance the experience of international students through volunteering, and support volunteer involving organisations’ volunteer program diversity through education, awareness-raising and placements.

Held on 15 October, the Spring Fling Festival brings the streets of North Melbourne alive with pop up markets, street food, beer gardens, entertainment, the always adorable Spring Fling Dog Show.

The Festival is reliant on volunteers to help in a number of roles from crowd control to information points and it provided the perfect opportunity for some of Melbourne’s 175,000 international students to connect with their new community and find out more about the local area.

Three of the students that took part on the day were Yoke from Malaysia, Hteteieikhime from Burma and Doris from China. Between them they helped to keep people safe from passing trams and mapped out where visitors were from as part of Harmony Street

Volunteering Victoria’s Community and Student Manager Sofie Anselmi enjoyed chatting to them about volunteering and what they hoped to get out of the experience as well as how we can make volunteering more inclusive for students like them.

“It’s invaluable to hear directly from students about the sorts of barriers they face to volunteering and how we can all work together to make volunteering more welcoming and inclusive,” said Sofie.

If you are an international student interested in becoming a volunteer, you can see current vacancies here.

If you are a volunteer involving organisation looking to host international students as volunteers please contact Volunteering Victoria at info@volunteeringvictoria.org.au or Tel: (03) 8327 8500.

Volunteering at ACES (Aboriginal Community Elders Service)

This story is from Dimi  Bouzalas, a volunteer with Aboriginal Community Elders Service (ACES).

For me, volunteering at ACES, an organisation that provides services to Indigenous people, is a culmination of decisions, insights and wishes built up over many years.

Volunteering with Indigenous people has opened up a world for me far beyond my imaginings. I had just returned from a holiday to see the country my parents were born in and was lamenting to an Elder my dilemma of not knowing which was my ‘real’ country. “Dim, this is your home. You were born here, you belong here.” My heart beat paused and my breath stopped on hearing these words. I had grown up the ‘migrant girl’, different, not really a part of this world. Yet, this handful of words from this special man, an Indigenous fellow, transformed my life.

For the first time I felt a sense of belonging, a feeling I had never known before, a profound feeling, which changed my entire outlook to my life in Australia.

Definitely this elder is a very special man, but it is what I find when I communicate with most Indigenous people where I volunteer – words don’t have to be many, but the message can be profound; talk is usually straight and frank, whilst at the same time it is considerate and generous.

As much as my purpose for volunteering is to give, I am humbled by what I am learning. I am still adjusting my mind through the miniscule insights I have had when a person wholly identifies as being a part of this country and has an unquestionable sense of belonging. The people at the centre have taught me how a steadier pace of life enables greater connections between people themselves, and with the land.

Volunteering at ACES is one of my week’s highlights and I feel so privileged with the smiles I receive when I get there. The wit and humour makes each day a treat and I only wish Elvis could pay a visit for a new rendition of Lawdy, Miss Clawdy.

For more information on the Aboriginal Community Elders Services (ACES), please contact.

Fiona Seeney, Program Coordinator
Aboriginal Community Elders Services
5 Parkview Avenue
Brunswick East 3057
Telephone: 03 9383 4244
Facsimile: 03 9384 1532
Website: www.acesinc.org.au

Sailors with disABILITIES put volunteers on the high seas

It’s a sunny and warm day in Melbourne and a class of students with disabilities is about to embark on a Winds of Joy sailing program run by Australian charity Sailors with disABILITIES (SWD). The class from Springvale Park Special Development School arrive at Docklands Marina where SWD volunteers meet them and, together, they walk down to the boat, students excitedly asking the volunteers questions about the boat, sailing and the Yarra River. After they slip into their lifejackets and board the boat, the students are quiet and attentive while listening to the Skipper’s welcome and safety briefing.

Within minutes of setting off, however, sun shining on them, wind in their hair and the Skipper telling pirate jokes, the quiet students crack a smile and the more outgoing students stretch their hands up to be chosen to steer. The boat’s name is Ninety Seven, a 47 foot racing yacht and Sydney Hobart Yacht Race winner, so accepting the challenge to take the wheel is quite brave!

For the next two hours, quiet or outgoing, each student is coaxed out of their comfort zone and even the quiet ones have a go at steering or winding winches.

The SWD program gives students a huge boost in self-belief which is all because of the volunteer crew and the chance to get involved in a safe space outside their comfort zones. SWD volunteers have been trained to work with children with disabilities to develop teamwork and self-confidence in students with disabilities  

“It’s the ultimate confidence boost and far beyond anything most students who come on board have ever done before,” says Richard O’Hara, SWD’s Melbourne Coordinator. “For most, it’s their first time on a yacht and, for some, it may be their first time on a boat.”

SWD has run the Winds of Joy program for children with disabilities in Melbourne since 2016, operating every Monday and Tuesday during school terms. SWD programs are fully volunteer-led and attract all types of volunteers, young and older, retired and working, from individuals who’ve sailed all their lives, through to beginner sailors who simply want to give something back to society while learning something new.

Beginner volunteer sailors often relate well with many of the first-time student sailors. They experience the same curiosity and hesitation as the students—they’re “in the same boat” (pun intended) metaphorically and literally and they form a bond from the shared experience of overcoming nerves and fears together.

Eddy Borg is one such volunteer. Eddy had no experience on a yacht when he started volunteering with SWD. “I felt intimidated to rock up at a sailing club as a novice volunteer sailor,” he said. “But volunteering enables me to learn a new skill and bringing joy to others is my main goal. The smiles and laughter I’ve seen on the students’ faces is priceless—that’s an acknowledgement that you’ve succeeded.”

Eddy explained that the beauty with SWD is that it’s about engaging with students; learning to sail is a bonus, but not the aim.

“Having said that,” Eddy says, “one of my realisations since joining SWD is that sailing is a skill that can be learned and enjoyed by anyone.”

Eddy says, “Sailing allows me to give back. Depending on the students’ disabilities, sometimes it can be difficult but I’ve found that simply sitting beside them can be enough. Other times, we chat and I’ve had lots of fun especially at the front of the boat chatting and showing students how the bow works and how to keep a look out for ships and land.”

Cruising down the Yarra River is a special experience for participants since much of the sailing in Melbourne occurs within Port Philip Bay at many of the local yacht clubs. The typical route on an SWD sail is to start at Docklands and sail down the Yarra until it meets the bay where it heads back towards the city. On the boat, the crew assist and instruct on how to tack and navigate along the river as well as engage with students on a personal level.

Even for some of the veteran crew members, these sails are a unique and rewarding experience. Paul Commins, who is a member of the Sandringham Yacht Club and one of SWD’s seasoned skippers, started sailing when he was thirteen years old and has sailed on and off for the past forty years.

 “Every time I go out on the water,” Paul says, “It’s different. When you’re sailing, you hear the boat cutting through the water. It’s an amazing feeling how the boat moves and responds as it’s being pushed by the wind and I get satisfaction from sharing the experience with other people.”

Paul explains that the greatest joy, though, is the response from children.

“I enjoy telling stories and giving them a unique experience, which can help change their lives. Each group and student is different, so each time we go out it’s a unique experience as they respond and interact with the conditions on that day with their own set of skills and gifts,” Paul says.

The feedback from schools has been overwhelmingly positive. SWD Melbourne Coordinator, Richard O’Hara explains, “I have heard students say that this is the best day of their life. We hear so many positive comments when we sail. And we’re following up afterwards and teachers tell us that kids still fondly recall their experience months or even a year later,” he says.

SWD is having an impact on the lives of students and, by extension, their teachers, classes and families.

“We hear from teachers how the experience gives students perspective and confidence. For some students, it’s a turning point which helps propel them outside their comfort zones in their day to day lives, taking on challenges they wouldn’t normally ever do and tackling obstacles they’d normally find frightening in their daily life,” Richard says. “They think, ‘well, I sailed on a racing yacht, so I can do this—like make new friends or stand up and talk in the classroom’.”

When he looks back at the inaugural season, Richard explains, “We gave over 600 participants a life changing experience and chance to learn new skills, challenge themselves and gain in confidence. This was all thanks to our patient, committed and caring team of volunteers. Our programs are free of charge so attracting enough volunteers to give up their time and help on board in on-water programs is critical.”

For SWD Melbourne, the next few months will be about preparing for the next sailing program season, starting in September. The aim is to increase the number of sail sessions per week and more volunteers are needed to do that.

SWD Melbourne also hopes to start running the Winds of Change program for disadvantaged students, which is run one day a week for eight consecutive weeks.

“It offers young people who are disengaged or disconnected from school or home the opportunity to participate in an inclusive, challenging and team oriented program which is designed to build leadership and teamwork skills and increase their self-confidence,” Richard says. “It’s been running in Sydney successfully for years and we hope to offer it to students in Melbourne who are experiencing disadvantage. To make it happen, we need more volunteers to join up.”

If you would like to change young lives and make a difference through sailing with children and adults with disabilities and those who experience disadvantage, please head to www.sailorswithdisabilities.com or contact Richard O’Hara at info2@sailorswithdisabilities.com.

ABOUT SWD: SWD is a tax-deductible charity founded in 1994. It’s fully funded by the generosity of donations from the public and is run by volunteers, some of whom have a disability. Since 1994, SWD has established permanent operations in Sydney and Melbourne, has grown its fleet to 5 yachts, developed 3 sailing programs, and improved over 47,000 lives through sailing.

SWD also runs annual Winds of Joy outreach programs in Hobart in February, as well as multiple areas throughout Queensland and northern NSW during the winter months.

Besides running sailing programs, SWD has also successfully competed in major ocean races and, in 2003, SWD achieved a world record as the fastest mono-hull yacht in recorded history to sail nonstop unassisted around Australia. The nonstop circumnavigation took just over 37 days. That SWD happened to be a disabled crew was a bonus and a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness of the capabilities of people with disabilities.

By Winnie Yu and Gayle Pescud

Volunteers help young refugees to make Australia home

Starting life in a new country can be a challenge, but a volunteer can make it easier for young refugees to make Australia home.

Ucan2 is a partnership between AMES Australia, the Centre for Multicultural Youth (CMY) and Foundation House. Ucan2 supports young people (16-24 years) who are newly arrived to Australia and from a refugee or migrant background.

The Ucan2 program is delivered with the support of committed and passionate volunteers who share their life experiences and skills with young people and help them make informed decisions about their education and career pathways. This is especially important for young people as they transition from learning English to studying and working in the wider community.

Former Ucan2 volunteer, Jane Pirouc, said “the most rewarding part of volunteering for Ucan2 has to be all of the amazing people I have met. Whether they have been students, other volunteers or the facilitators. The stories, smiles and surprises, which everyone brings, have made every class different.”

Over the past year alone, Ucan2 volunteers worked with over 200 newly arrived young people in Melbourne, to feel supported in discussing their goals and identifying education and career pathways.

Becoming a Ucan2 volunteer requires a commitment of 2.5 hours one afternoon each week over the course of a semester. CMY provides training to all volunteers and ongoing support.

For more information or to apply to become a volunteer, please visit http://cmy.net.au/ucan2.