LINK-ing theory and practice: Cecilia comes up trumps
Cecilia is a driven woman with varied and sometimes contrasting interests. A love of the spoken word and writing; supporter of animal welfare rights… along with an appreciation for loud V8 motors (particularly the Ford Falcon GTH0 351). And like many of her peers, she has a thirst for travel. Her eyes light up as she excitedly lists places she would like to visit and possibly work in…. South America, Europe and Asia. But she has recently discovered a new passion- volunteering.
Spending Christmas Day 2013 on her own, after catching up with family and friends earlier in the month, Cecilia began to think that she could be doing more with her time.
By the time the New Year arrived, and unable to shake the thought, she took action, searching for volunteering roles online.
After two months, she found an advertisement for a Communications Assistant posted by LINK Community Transport.
The role sounded like a good fit – one that she could manage while completing a Bachelor of Journalism and a Diploma of Languages (majoring in Italian) at La Trobe University. The scope of work the volunteer role required meant the opportunity to put theory into practice.
Cecilia contacted Link was interviewed and got the role. She volunteers four hours each Friday at LINK’s main office. Some of her key duties include updating social media platforms, compiling the monthly newsletter and interviewing volunteer drivers and clients.
Cecilia is animated about her volunteering work and the many things she enjoys about the role. She is fascinated by client stories as she interviews them for LINK’s monthly newsletter. The interview process means she often finds herself welcomed into people’s homes, giving her real insight into understanding the challenges some people face in simply getting around in their own communities.
“Our clients are happy and grateful because they get to do stuff and get out into the community – a lot of people would be house bound without LINK,” Cecilia explains.
This experience has also reaffirmed the importance of getting out into a community to find stories. It’s something frequently mentioned in her journalism course subjects – being prepared to talk to people face to face, gather information and make independent assessments.
Volunteering at LINK, has meant learning a lot about aged care and the issues that affect the sector – as well as appreciating the value of the much less visible, and rarely acknowledged community transport sector.
From a professional development perspective, Cecilia has been able to produce a series of folio-worthy materials demonstrating her communication skills. She recently contributed to LINK’s Annual Report and revised the monthly newsletter making it more accessible. Her efforts have yielded measurable results for LINK – more people are opening the monthly e-newsletters, the organisation’s facebook page has hit the 100-likes milestone and there has been positive feedback from volunteers and staff.
Volunteering in a not for profit in the community sector has challenged her ideas about working in the media.
“I don’t see working as a journalist as something that’s so glamorous anymore. I don’t need to be on the front page of The Age with a killer scoop. I think my experiences have humbled me and allowed me to explore a different way of telling people’s stories and getting the voices of the people heard. In that sense, I think it’s opened up endless career options for me,” Cecilia said.
Cecilia encourages anyone with some spare time to consider volunteering: “Definitely give it a go, it is so worthwhile. You’re not focusing on yourself so much; it can give you an opportunity to learn more about other people. Volunteering makes me feel happier and more fulfilled because I am accomplishing something, doing something good.”
Her work as a volunteer, however, did not go unnoticed by her university – La Trobe University recently awarded Cecilia with the Community Engagement Certificate. In January (2015), Cecilia will be completing a one month intensive in Prato, Italy studying Renaissance history. Undoubtedly, the travelling seed will blossom during her up-coming overseas trip but also growing, is a commitment to learning and interest in helping others and the community through volunteering.
By Shelley Falzon
LINK Community Transport is a not for profit organisation providing transport solutions for people and communities in Melbourne, Victoria. LINK is committed to assisting older people and people with a disability and their carers to maintain an active and engaged social and civic life. This is facilitated by assisting clients to access social and recreational activities that fosters their capacity to ‘age in place’. Since 1991 LINK has been delivering door to door community transport in the form of the Out and About Program and specialist community transport sector related training and advocacy. During that time LINK has become a leader in the development and delivery of best practice and continuous improvement in community transport and delivery of training to other HACC providers in the North, West and Southern HACC regions.
For more information about how you could volunteer at LINK, contact the Volunteer Coordinator on: (03) 8353 8000 or firstname.lastname@example.org