Introducing Sarah Watson 

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If there was ever a person who could teach us how to juggle their study life with volunteering, it’s Sarah. We had a chat about what drives her and the benefits she receives from volunteering with Ardoch as our Policy & Research volunteer.

“I’m studying towards a Juris Doctor masters at Melbourne University. I did a two-year medical science undergraduate degree at Griffith Uni, and then one year of medicine at Melbourne Uni. I really didn’t enjoy medicine, I went into it straight after school, but I’ve always been interested in law because I did it at high school. I want to go into health law and policy, so that’s what I’m trying to do at the moment. I’m also an intern at the Mental Health Complaints Commission (MHCC).”

In an age where juggling commitments is key, Sarah explains how she manages to fit so much into her week. “It’s really hard sometimes. I volunteer at Ardoch and at the Red Cross in the weekends. I also work about 10 hours a week at my part time job, do my internship and go to Uni. I feel like you have to be really organised and take a minute to make sure everything is done correctly. I feel exhausted a lot of the time, but I only really commit to things that I enjoy doing.”

“When I moved to Melbourne to study law, I had a fairly empty resume, so I wanted to find something to fulfil that side of things. Because I wanted to go into policy, I was looking for a volunteer position related to that. I saw a role at Ardoch on Seek that involved policy research and applied! I enjoy coming to the Ardoch office and talking to the staff, it’s a whole new experience for me. The thing I feel gives me the most value is the research skills and actually looking at policies and analysing them. I also love seeing how Kylee (Ardoch, CEO) values my work.”

With already so much experience in the world of volunteering, Sarah tells us why she chose Ardoch. “If Ardoch didn’t exist, I think there would be a lot more disadvantaged kids from migrant, refugee, Torres Strait Island and Aboriginal backgrounds that would be a lot more disengaged at school. I think that employers value volunteer experience. I think they value that you’ve taken time out to do other things that aren’t just study, and if you’re volunteering in a field related to your qualification, it adds to the skills that you have when talking to an employer. When I applied for an internship at the Mental Health Complaints Commissioner, I think they really valued my policy research experience at Ardoch. It also helped that I report to the Ardoch CEO who gave me an amazing reference!”

“Thinking I didn’t have time to volunteer was essentially me three years ago when I was doing my undergraduate degree. I was very study focused and I wasn’t aware of all the volunteering opportunities. I think maybe I thought working in a soup kitchen or something was the only way to help people who need it. I’ve since learnt that there is a lot more than that out there. I feel like volunteering is one of those things that help with a work/life/study balance. I like the idea of having a bit of diversity and changing things up, plus you learn a lot and meet like-minded people.”

Kylee Bates reflects on what a privilege having Sarah on board is. “Sarah exemplifies the characteristics we value in our volunteers: committee, hard-working and passionate about making a difference in the community. That we are able to provide meaningful volunteer opportunities to support our crucial ‘behind the scenes’ policy and advocacy work that also contribute to the learning and future employment skills of young people like Sarah is a real privilege.”

We’re always looking for new volunteers both in our office and at our partner schools. If you’re interested in how you can make a difference, please visit ardoch.org.au/volunteers-at-ardoch