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Every day, millions of Australians volunteer their time to give back to the community.
People like Egyptian-born Mohamed Zahran want to make a difference in the world. As a volunteer, he’s involved in the preparation of free meals, he cares for the elderly in the community and he assists new arrivals with their language problems.
“It’s something that makes me feel that I have made a difference, even though it might only be a little difference and might not have a big impact. But if I have made somebody smile, it makes me satisfied that I have achieved something in my day,” he says.
Almost 10 000 registered organisations in the country offer volunteer positions in community care, sport, education, etc.
Volunteering is also a great way to become more involved in the Australian community.“I didn’t want to stay in my own small world, I wanted to expose myself. I’m getting involved in the community because I want to learn about the Australian way,” says Lap Kuen Leung, who migrated from Hong Kong.
“You get to learn the culture, you get to learn how people think because it is important that you know what the people do here, what they like, what they don’t like. There are a lot of cultural differences between the world I came from - and it’s not right or wrong, it is just different.”
Volunteering can also be a pathway into a future career.
“To make the volunteers gain something for themselves, not money, not only the satisfaction to be a volunteer and offer yourself and your abilities and skills to your community, but for you to gain something like new skills, new talents to improve your personality to improve your professional experience,” explains Paraskevi Tsingas, the volunteer coordinator of a Greek welfare organisation in Melbourne.
Your level of English shouldn’t be a barrier to volunteering. You can often find opportunities where using your first language are an asset or use the experience to learn more English.
“Our trainers are taught to deal with language, literacy and numeracy impediments people might have or lack of skills in those areas. So we make reasonable adjustments to make sure that everybody is given an equal chance to grow in the organization,” says Graham Kinder, who is a commander with the NSW State Emergency Service.
The efforts of Australia’s volunteers are vital for the country to function and appreciated by the community. But volunteering has been on the decline in recent years. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 31% of Australians volunteered in 2014, compared to 36% in 2010.
From 20 to 26 May, thousands of events will be held across the country to say thank you to the 6 million Australians who volunteer their time. The celebration will include breakfasts, morning teas, luncheons, open days, award ceremonies, picnics, forums and training sessions.
For more information about National Volunteer Week and to find out about volunteering opportunities, check out the Volunteering Australia website.