Meet Vanessa

Tell me a bit about yourself?

I live in NSW currently studying Bachelor of Applied Sciences – speech pathology. I enjoy drinking tea, origami and have had dance lessons since I was 3 and I do really enjoy volunteer work.

What were your reasons for originally volunteering with us?

I saw an advertisement online and it really stood out. Studying speech pathology I do a lot of placements with school aged children and having an understanding of what is being taught and what specific topics they learn in class. I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to volunteer with kids and that it would be very rewarding because I love working with children.

What has your experience with the program been like?

It’s been really positive, the people who organise the program have sent us lots of resources and guidance on how to write the letters. I’ve had a lot of fun with the letters adding stickers and its really exciting waiting to hear back from the children. I think that’s the exciting part of the program.

What do you feel you have gained from the program?

I think what I have gained is being able to get to that level and build that rapport with the children. A lot of the kids don’t have the role models and when I was growing up I struggled academically and having that role model to look up to really meant something to me and I think it means something to a lot of kids.

What do you have to say to others who are thinking of volunteering with Ardoch?

If you are really passionate and want to make a difference to someone’s life, I would really recommend it. Even if you have not had experience volunteering with children before doing this program would be invaluable experience.

I volunteer to…

Make a difference in someone’s life.

Meet Yulia

Tell me a bit about yourself?

I am from China, and I am currently completing my last semester of my Masters course in Education.

I have been volunteering with Ardoch since March.

What were your reasons for originally volunteering with us?

I have been volunteering with other organisations and I have found it very rewarding. Since I have had extra time and energy I thought I would also volunteer for Ardoch and help more students from disadvantaged communities.

What has your experience with the program been like?

I am really enjoying writing the letters to my little buddy. I think it is a really good idea to exchange ideas with children over a period of time where you can get to know each other and build some rapport and also help some kids to learn outside their daily lives.

So I think its really great program that both parties can benefit from.

What do you feel you have gained from the program?

So far I have only received my two little buddies profiles, but I think I can imagine from their answers what kind of children they are. I believe in the power of words and how they can contain warmth and power and bring a positive energy to the recipients. So I quite enjoy the process of writing the letters in a creative way, and writing encouraging words. It’s also exciting waiting for the letters from your little buddies and it really brings some joy.

What do you have to say to others who are thinking of volunteering with Ardoch?

I think you never know what kind of impact you might have on someone in need, so Ardoch can provide a fantastic opportunity to help discover the kind of impact in yourself. And also help you to understand better of yourself.

It can really open up your mind to think deeper and just help you to discover more layers of yourself.

I volunteer to…

Help the children see a vaster brighter world.

Meet Joanne

Tell me a bit about yourself?

Meet Joanne, one of our amazing Education Volunteers based in New South Wales. Originally, from Scotland, Joanne started her life in Australia on a working holiday. Now having spent over two years living in Australia, Joanne is a student studying her Masters in Office Administration.

What impact do you think you are making on the kids?

Each week you see improvements in the kids, the first day I started was their first day of school and they were all quite nervous. I help them with literacy and numeracy tasks and you see them improving each week. Sometimes they will come up to me and specifically ask me for help and show me something they have worked on.

What do you have to say to others who are thinking of volunteering?

Go for it. When I was first starting I was a little sceptical that I could make any difference but when I get the kids asking me for help and I can see they trust me more now I can see I’m making a difference to not just the kids but the teachers as well. Helping the teacher and making a difference to her day too. They can be a bit hyperactive coming of the weekend.

Meet Aremel

Tell me a bit about yourself?

I was born in the Philippines and moved to Australia when I was 5 and ever since then my education has been here. I am a university student studying a double degree in architecture and construction management at Deakin University.

Please share one or two stories that have really resonated with you?

I think one that really resonated with me this year, when you are reading to the year 3 and 4s and they read it with a lot of interest and they want you to engage and it’s just so amazing to see a child excited by their learning and it’s such a valuable experience for me.

What do you have to say to others who are thinking of volunteering?

They should do it. The reason why they can further expand their understanding beyond – when you do something the reward is not physical its more emotional and I think that’s important. Be satisfied to help another person.

It helps people to understand education more – some of them may not be in the education field but it gives them a chance to understand how children learn, learn valuable skills, and communicate with children.

A lot of skills that you learn through Ardoch and volunteering.

Meet Chris

Tell me a bit about yourself?

I’m retired and prior to being retired I was an Occupational therapist for 35 years, working with children with special needs. I loved my work and have worked with children all of my working life. I have been retired for about two years.

Please share one or two stories that have really resonated with you?

So last year I was working with children from a non-English background. There was this one boy, and he spoke really quietly and wasn’t really engaging. I had to initiate and really encourage him to come do something with me like read a book or do a puzzle. But over the second half of last year you could really see a change and he would run up to greet me and he would go and pick a book to read with me. Initially he would have trouble concentrating on me even reading a book and he got to the point where he could focus and enjoy a whole book together.

The real important part for me that he was initiating that interaction and was really excited to go and get the book and read it together.

What do you have to say to others who are thinking of volunteering?

I highly recommend it. Generally, there is so much personal satisfaction from volunteering that you are doing something worthwhile and contributing to your local community. I’ve been really impressed with Ardoch as an organisation, the communication has been very good and the level of engagement and constant contact even over this last period with COVID -19 has been amazing.

Overall, it has been a very positive experience for me and satisfying working in high need regions. It is really satisfying for me to know that I am making a difference and helping children in my local community.

Meet Lionel

Tell me a bit about yourself?

I grew up in Melbourne and live in Geelong. I moved to Geelong in 2009 and since then I have found myself very involved in volunteering in various ways. I enjoy meeting people and chatting to all sorts of people.

I’m in my seventh year with my current school. I have worked across all year levels, depending on need. I’ve even seen some children go through from prep all the way through to year 6.

It’s all been terrific and the staff and the principal have all been so supportive.

Do you see a difference in the kids?

Absolutely yes, sometimes it’s not always with the reading but it’s the confidence with in themselves that they gain, I think it’s very important when they’re reading to give encouragement e.g. wow you read that really well and give them a high five and they love that – praise is very important. They need that feedback.

Sometimes they don’t get the support at home that they need, or their first language is not English. The school volunteer program that Ardoch provides is pretty important in that sense.

Please share one or two stories that have really resonated with you?

Funny one from last year – I came back in term four and toward the end of term they start bringing in the preppies that will start the next year. I learned that there was one little boy that I did not notice but I was told later on that he said, “hey they even have a grandpa working here”.

Also when students come up to you and have moved on to other classes and they don’t need the same level of support but they still want to have contact with you and they come up to say hello and that’s such a nice thing to happen.

What do you have to say to others who are thinking of volunteering?

I would recommend volunteering to anyone. I recommend to friends. If you enjoy reading and contact with other people and think you can make a difference by assisting young people, then you should absolutely do it

And you get a great deal of personal satisfaction from it as well. Making the difference is the most important thing. It has been a pretty good experience for me I’m positive about the whole program.

I’ve also enjoyed these PD sessions on zoom very positive way of going ahead and learning more.

Meet Tanya

Tanya is one of our workplace volunteers from Corrs taking part in Ardoch’s Literacy Buddies® program this year. Tanya has been a Big Buddy for the last three years.

What impact do you think you are having on the kids?

I definitely think that the program has a positive impact on the kids. When you receive a super cute letter that has taken some time to create you realise the effort that has been put in.

Please share one or two stories that have really resonated with you?

After exchanging letters back and forth, getting to meet your little buddy at a school visit is the part that I enjoy the most, almost as much as writing the letters.

What advice would you give to fellow workplace volunteers just starting the program?

Ask the Literacy Buddy questions that get their minds thinking and don’t be afraid to be a kid again.