Meet Mark As an employee at tech company Cummins, Mark takes part in our workplace volunteering program, Numeracy Buddies. Through this program, Mark’s STEM experience is being shared with the ‘Little Buddies’ he is paired with through an online blog. Why did you start volunteering with Ardoch? A colleague at work had participated in the Numeracy Buddies program and described how it operated and how much he enjoyed it. The impact it has on the children resonated with me and I felt it would be a rewarding and worthwhile program to be involved with. Can you describe your experience with the program? The program has been very enjoyable. Reading the blogs the little buddies leave for me is a lot of fun. Corresponding back and forth is something I look forward to each fortnight and the short relationships you build during the program are rewarding for everyone involved. What have you gained from the program? The satisfaction that you are helping kids and providing a positive influence is very rewarding. It’s a great program and I enjoy the blogs with the kids and giving them some positive responses and encouragement. It is also a welcome distraction from the regular routine of work. What would you say to others thinking of volunteering? Participation is easy. Ardoch provide lots of information at the start of the program to guide you along and the experience is rewarding for both the little and big buddies. Meet Sarah Sarah is a science curator at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum with a background in Astronomy. Volunteering with Ardoch as a Literacy Buddy, she says she is passionate about education and how it opens doors and opportunities and should be accessible to all. Why did you start volunteering with Ardoch? I heard about it from the Museum’s HR team and it sounded like a wonderful program. I wanted to give back. Can you describe your experience with the program? It has been fantastic. I was paired with the perfect buddy. He was really into science and maths – he even sent me maths problems to solve. I have enjoyed receiving the letters so much. It was great to hear what he was doing and see how his writing skills evolved. What have you gained from the program? I knew it would be rewarding, but it was also so much fun. The highlight was unquestionably meeting my buddy. He even recited a poem for me. What would you say to others thinking of volunteering with Ardoch? Definitely do it! You won’t regret it. Meet Yulia Originally from China, Yulia began volunteering with Ardoch as a Literacy Buddy while studing for her Masters in Education. She says she volunteers to “help the children see a vaster, brighter world”. Why did you start volunteering with Ardoch? 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. Can you describe your experience with the program? 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 it’s a really great program that both parties can benefit from. What have you gained from the program? 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 would you say to others 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 yourself better. It can really open up your mind to think deeper and just help you to discover more layers of yourself. Meet Loretta Loretta is an Education Volunteer with Ardoch, after moving to Australia from Singapore she has been training to be a learning support educator. Why did you start volunteering with Ardoch? I knew that becoming an educator here in Australia was going to be a long process. Late one night, I was searching online because I had decided I wanted to do something more with my life. I signed up to become an education volunteer. Can you describe your experience with the program? Initially, I was volunteering with younger age groups at kinder. I was an extra pair of hands for the teacher and helped facilitate their activities and engage with their play-based learning. This year I have joined a primary school, and I love it. I am working with Grade 5 kids that need some extra help. They seem to enjoy me visiting too. One of the kids wanted to know why I only came on Wednesday – it was really sweet. What have you gained from the program? I love it. It helps me achieve my personal goals – I have always been someone that likes to give my time. I like to be of service, and volunteering helps me reach that goal. And I love making use of my skills. Volunteering with the kids makes me really happy. I love the professional development training. Updates from Ardoch are straightforward and easy to understand, and it is great seeing other volunteers. What would you say to others thinking of volunteering? If you are not interested in kids, don’t do it. We are role models in their lives, and how we speak and how we act will help them grow. Do it for the right reasons and with passion. Meet Aremel Aremel was born in the Philippines, moving to Australia when he was five and educated here. He is now a university student studying a double degree in architecture and construction management at Deakin University. Aremel is also an Education Volunteer lending his time in the classroom of one of Ardoch’s partner schools. Can you share a moment volunteering that really resonated with you? I think one that really resonated with me this year was when I was reading to the year 3 and 4s and they read it with a lot of interest and they want me 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 would you say to others thinking of volunteering? They should do it. 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 Belle Belle is a Graduate at Law at Clayton Utz and a Literacy Buddy. Belle was already familiar with Ardoch from her time at high school where she participated in charity events raising money for Ardoch programs. She says she has always felt it was important to be involved with activities and organisations that help young people who haven’t had the same opportunities as she has. Why did you start volunteering with Ardoch? I volunteered as a Paralegal because I love to read and think literacy is a vital skill. Volunteering is part of the firm’s Graduate Program at Clayton Utz so we are all signed up automatically, but I would have done so again anyway! Can you describe your experience with the program? I signed up before [Covid] lockdowns. I was paired with two fantastic buddies. I was always so excited to get letters from them both. Sometimes I had to use google to find out what my buddies were talking about! It was great fun to get involved with the new generation of “cool” kids! What have you gained from the program? The induction covers everything you need to know. It provides the ground rules but still gives you the freedom to engage with the buddies knowing you are doing the right thing. It’s a great way to bring the Graduates together too. We would chat about what to put on our “About me” profile and what stickers we had to decorate our letters. There was much anticipation when the letters arrived to see how our buddies were doing. The support from Ardoch makes it very easy to be a volunteer. It’s a fantastic program and I’ve loved being a part of it. What would you say to others thinking of volunteering with Ardoch? Do it. It doesn’t take long to get stuck in and the rewards for yourself and the kids are massive. Meet Lionel Lionel enjoys meeting people. Since moving to Geelong in 2009 he has been very involved in volunteering in various ways. A long-term Education Volunteer with Ardoch, Lionel has spent over seven years with the school he was matched to. Working across all year levels, depending on need, Lionel has even seen some children go through from prep all the way to year 6. He says, “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 within themselves that they gain, I think it’s very important when they’re reading to give encouragement, like, “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. Can you share any stories that have really resonated with you? Funny one from a year ago – 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 would you say to others 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 Abeer Abeer loves teaching and was a kinder teacher in Iraq for five years. In Turkey, she volunteered to help adults learn English. Now in Australia, Abeer is an Education Volunteer for Ardoch. Each week she spends time in the classroom volunteering to help children. Why did you start volunteering with Ardoch? I was looking online for volunteering opportunities; I thought I might volunteer at a school. I didn’t think it would be through an organisation – but I saw an ad and applied. A few days later, I got a call. Can your describe your experience with the program? I am enjoying being with the children in the class, and the teachers have said I was doing well with the kids. I’m going two days a week and would be happy to do more. I help all the kids in the class with reading and writing. What have you gained from the program? New experiences, learning about how things work in the classroom in Australia. Even though I have taught before, things are different in each country. I like helping the children. What would you say to others thinking of volunteering with Ardoch? I would encourage people to volunteer. Everything is smooth and organised, and the training sessions really help.