UNITINGCARE Victoria and Tasmania agencies marked National Volunteer Week earlier this month by thanking volunteers for their dedication in delivering services throughout local communities.
The week ran from May 9-15 with the theme Give Happy, Live Happy to celebrate and explore the research that shows volunteers live happier and healthier lives.
Over 4000 volunteers support UCVT agencies and Wesley Mission Victoria, while 600 people volunteer for Uniting AgeWell and many more donate their time throughout Uniting Church schools.
Volunteers work in a range of different settings including emergency relief centres and back office administrative work.
Elham Arvan is just one of them.
Elham was referred to UnitingCare Geelong’s Grovedale agency by a local recruitment company to further develop her skills and meet new people.
From writing cheques, processing payments and managing accounts Elham says she enjoys the varied role.
“I enjoy working with numbers and getting a taste of what it would be like to work as an Accountant,” Ms Arvan said.
“The team are very friendly and have welcomed me with open arms.”
While volunteering at UnitingCare Elham is looking for paid employment.
“In Iran, I worked as an Accountant for a couple of different businesses. I find the role is much the same here in Australia,” Ms Arvan said.
Chief Executive Officer Des Younghusband said it takes a special type of person to be a volunteer.
“At UnitingCare Geelong we have volunteers from all walks of life, who share an enthusiasm for helping those in need,” Mr Younghusband said.
“Elham has proven to be a great addition to our finance and administration team. Volunteers are the lifeblood of our organisation. Without them we wouldn’t be able to provide practical assistance to 5,500 locals a year who experience financial and personal hardship.”
Jordan Miller, 26, volunteers at Kildonan UnitingCare as a mentor for the Youth Mentoring program since 2013. It came after he saw an advertisement looking for people to work with teenagers and build a young person’s confidence by being a supportive role model.
“It seemed like something that was very worthwhile,” Jordan said.
Jordan was paired with a 13 year-old teenager who is living in residential care after experiencing family breakdown.
“He had been moved around quite a bit and chose to couch surf with his friends,” Jordan said.
“I got to appreciate he had to deal with a lot for someone his age.”
Jordan aims to meet with the young boy once a fortnight to encourage him to make better choices and boost his self-esteem.
“Young people in his situation don’t have a lot of people they can turn to,” Jordan said.
“I have worked with people in similar situations and it really does impact you.”
It’s estimated 90 per cent of young people who are mentored have a more positive view of the future while 71 per cent increase their school attendance.
The Youth Mentoring program has seen many young people work with influential role models who have gone on to further education.
Jordan, who is studying his Masters of Social Policy at the University of Melbourne, says he has always had an interest in helping vulnerable young people.
‘Volunteering gives me a purpose and allows me to make a difference in people’s lives,” he said.
“I’m happy I volunteered to be a Youth Mentor in my local community.”
From 2014-2015 Kildonan UnitingCare has matched 23 young people with Youth Mentors as a way to give them direction and guidance at a pivotal time in their lives.
Jordan has this message to anyone who would like to become a volunteer.
“If you have some time to devote to young people and are willing to make a commitment, it is definitely worthwhile,” he said.