When Ray Waters retired in 2016, he wanted to put his life experiences to good use and give something back to the community, particularly in areas where he felt he could make a positive and valuable contribution. And he has done that in spades! Ray first volunteered as part of a team at Camp Quality’s […]
Described as the ‘Rock’ of the Oasis office, Erin Donnelly, an ex-chief clerk in the Army, had plenty to keep her busy and happy but felt there was room for volunteering to be a part of her retirement. Erin joined The Oasis Townsville, a referral and support hub, in 2018, an appointment she describes as […]
He wanted to ride fast and feel the wind on his face. He feared going fast and preferred to ride steadily. She needed every move explained – turning right, turning left, stopping, crossing a road, going up a hill, down a hill and so on in order to feel safe. These are just some of […]
For more than 40 years, Liz Downes has been volunteering her time, expertise and skill for a number of community organisations. She currently volunteers for Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland and the JCU’s Mabo Library (Special Collections). Liz said, “I have always been passionate about nature conservation and protecting our environment and wildlife so it […]
Sarah McDonnell says she doesn’t know who she’d be without volunteering. The recipient of the Youth Volunteer Award at this year’s Virtual NQ Volunteer of the Year Awards, Sarah started volunteering at just 12 years of age. At 15, her volunteer horizons expanded when she became eligible to volunteer for leadership roles. Now aged 17, […]
Author, snake-catcher, committee president, manager of Landcare sites. These are just some of the hats Greg Calvert wears in his quest to make the environment a better place for all of us.
“Seeing degraded landscapes suffering from long-term neglect I started working on revegetating the riverbank behind my parents’ house,” Greg said.
“Since then I’ve volunteered with many groups including the North Queensland Herpetological Society, Society for Growing Australian Plants and Townsville Snake Catchers.”
Greg was involved with Landcare from its inception as the Tropical Urban Production and Landcare Group that later merged with another to become the Coastal Dry Tropics Landcare Inc. 18 years on, he has served on the committees in various roles including as president of the Coastal Dry Tropics Landcare Inc.
“The work we do will leave behind a legacy that will endure for far longer than any of us. I like to think that the trees I plant will be appreciated by generations of people not yet born, “Greg said.
“It’s a quiet sort of work, very much out of the spotlight, a few hours on weekends, sometimes an hour after work. Whenever I get disheartened, I look back at photos and see how far we have come. I enjoy the company and camaraderie of like-minded people who work alongside towards a common goal.”
“Being able to inspire and encourage others to follow a similar path is probably the biggest positive impact I’ve ever had.”
Finding and completely eradicating several species of weeds before they were able to get established in Townsville has been one of the many highlights of Greg’s work.
He is most proud of co-authoring “Rare and Threatened plants of the Townsville-Thuringowa Region” for Coastal Dry Tropics Landcare in 1995, his first publication.
Greg said the skills and experience he has developed as a volunteer have helped immensely in his career as a botanist and ecologist. “I’ve met many friends along the way, and have enjoyed so many trips out bush collecting seeds, growing them, planting them and maintaining them.”
“In the high stress life of a PhD student and consultant, it’s nice to have somewhere I can burn off a bit of frustration chopping out weeds and getting away from the hustle and bustle to be among the forest I helped plant and grow.
It is very soothing, settling and calming to be in a place where you can reflect on what’s going on around you, shaded by a whole forest, where you helped bring life to every one of those tall trees. I always know that even if I dropped dead tomorrow, I’d leave behind something positive.”
From heating up meat pies to becoming a volunteer manager is all in a day’s work for Gerri Bobbin.
Gerri began volunteering in 2005 on her day off. She was one of only a handful of mums volunteering in the tuckshop at her daughter’s primary school.
This led to reading in class, helping with Mothers Day and Fathers Day activities, Christmas fundraisers, sports days and more.
She became a committee member and was then voted in as the treasurer at a theatre group she was part of. Gerri then joined the Happy Feat family and a few years later was asked to take on the role of Volunteer Manager.
“Happy Feat provides around 41 local adults, all who have differing abilities a place to dance, have fun and socialise every week,” she said.
“It is a lot more than dancing, it’s a place to learn social engagement, teamwork and self worth.
“The Townsville community have embraced Happy Feat as their own. They are constantly being requested to attend a varying array of functions as performers or even as special guests.”
“Happy Feat gives so many opportunities to 41 people that they would never normally get to experience. They get to shine and to show their amazing abilities. Our team of carefully chosen volunteers demonstrate this with their love and nurturing to allow this to happen.”
Gerri said the benefits she has gained from volunteering include experience in the workplace, learning new skills, building self-confidence and self-esteem, improving mental health and well-being, giving back to the community and finding purpose through meaningful activity.
“Becoming a part of the Happy Feat family has started a whole new chapter in my life.”
“Our Happy Featers teach me so much more than I could have ever imagined.
“Their acceptance, inclusiveness, empathy and honesty is infectious.
“I have made life long friendships with some of the most amazing human beings who give of their valuable time freely and consistently so that they can make a huge difference to others.
“Wednesday night is definitely the best night of the week.”
She helps parents borrow toys for their children – Elmo and Raggedy Ann may be included.
Sue Gardner was a deserving nominee for The Heart of Volunteering Award in the 2019 NQ Volunteer of the Year Awards.
Sue said she first started volunteering in 2015 after her husband passed away.
“It was not long after I retired from teaching so I needed to keep busy,” she said.
“My daughter showed me information about the Pyjama Foundation which seemed to fit with my teaching experience.”
“I mentor a cherub for one hour once per week and also look after the resource room. I am still with the Pyjama Foundation and I volunteer at the Townsville Toy Library.”
She also knits ‘knockers’ for the Townsville branch of the PJF and volunteers at the Blood Bank usually once a month. She is also Secretary of the Probus Club of Townsville Inc.
“With the PJF I am helping foster children experience success at school, at the Toy Library I help families borrow toys for their children I knit knockers to support women who have mastectomies and at the Probus Club we help seniors socialise,” she said
At each organisation, Sue feels a valuable part of the team.
“In each organisation I meet people who have the same values as me and they make me feel I am doing something worthwhile for the community,” she said.
“I am helping others and helping make the local community a better place to live.”
Being nominated and celebrating with the other amazing people also nominated for awards at the inaugural North Queensland Volunteer of the Year Awards was a highlight, Sue said.
The Pyjama Foundation named her an “Angel” of the year in 2018.
Volunteering has helped her grow as a person, she said.
“You wonder when you retire how to fill the days but by volunteering life becomes busy but in a good way.”
She is an outstanding dancer and an outstanding volunteer. Oh, and she was awarded a State award for her work.
Rhiannon Hall was awarded The Volunteer Impact Award at the 2019 NQ Volunteer of the Year Awards.
Rhiannon said she had always been passionate about dancing and saw a perfect opportunity to give back to her community when a friend started a dance group for people with special needs, Happy Feat.
“As the Choreographer and Dance Teacher, my role is to create dances for people with differing abilities and various levels of mobility and concentration,” she said.
Rhiannon says she is empowered by the organisation’s ethos.
“Happy Feat gives people with special needs somewhere to shine. The impact that this group has on everyone is truly magical,” she said.
“Social skills and friendship, among other life skills are shared and encouraged as well as dancing. The community’s acceptance and response to our performances contributes significantly to the participant’s self-esteem and provides them with rich social engagement.”
Rhiannon said it was the people she met that made volunteering such a wonderful experience.
“I enjoy the fun I have with amazing people each week – feeling like I am making the smallest difference in someone’s day. I get to do something I love and give back to a community that needs it.”
A highlight at Happy Feat had being able to see how all the dancers evolve over time, she said.
They all blossom and shine after just a few weeks of coming. I feel so honoured that I get to share a little piece of their lives.”
She is most proud of the fact she took 35 dancers and their parents and careers to the Special Olympic Asia Pacific Games and perform at the opening ceremony.
“We flew everyone to Newcastle so they could experience this once-in-life time-experience. I am always incredibly proud as a dance teacher to see them performing but this one would have to be the most emotional and heart warming.”
Her advice to to anyone considering volunteering is straightforward.
“Just do it – no matter what it is, you get so much enjoyment out of helping people and being a part of a team. It adds so much fun and fulfilment to your life.”
She said the organisation felt like family now.
“You get to know everyone who walks through the door. We make time to catch up and share our experiences of the night.”
She knew what she wanted from a young age. Bernadette had an interest in cultural development and wanted to be part of a proactive community.
“I wanted to learn new skills and find meaningful and productive ways to express myself and promote culture in my community,” she said.
Bernadette Boscassi started volunteering at 4TTT Community Radio in 1983 as High School Program Coordinator. She went on to volunteer with the Youth Network, Palm Creek Festival and the Golden Bee Project where she continues to volunteer.
“I got to travel to Sweden in 2017 to represent Golden Bee Australia in an International Art Market in Stockholm,” Bernadette said.
Now also volunteering at Mundy Creek Landcare (CDTLI), Garbutt & Kowanyama Culture & Research Centre, in Kowanyama and remotely, Bernadette cites the regeneration of Mundy Creek Garbutt as one of the many highlights of her volunteering story.
“It’s very satisfying to see the continued growth of the trees we planted and all the benefits that flow from this – the birds and animals that visit or inhabit the area, the increased shade and physical beauty,” she said.
“I am particularly proud of the work I have lead at Mundy Creek. Also, the production of Alma Luke’s Bush Medicine Book which fulfilled an elder woman’s longstanding aspiration to write and publish a book for her community and the world about the healing powers of her traditional lands and its natural resources.”
“Whenever I become involved in community and contribute my skills and time to activities and projects that I know help to make the world a better, happier place to live in, I experience increased health and well-being. I meet many amazing people and experience a myriad of things that I would not otherwise experience had I stayed at home and focussed on my own small world.
“Volunteering is about making a commitment to something bigger than ourselves and our own insular world. When we work together collaboratively and collectively, opportunities arise, we achieve goals and our lives and communities are changed and enriched.
In short, it has brought me new and valuable relationships, opened my mind, toned my muscles, honed my skills and gladdened my heart.”