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 annual programs and camps that help young children and their families cope with the daily ups and downs of dealing with cancer.
Since its inception in 2017, Ray has been volunteering at The Cowboys Community Foundation’s NRL NQ Cowboys House. In his role as the Volunteer Co-ordinator, he recruits tutors, provides guidance, training, inspires the team and works with them in the support of vulnerable students.
Ray has recruited more than 200 volunteer tutors to work one-on-one with the students to help them complete their study or assessments. He tutors two afternoons a week and along with co-ordinating the tutors, devotes numerous hours to the required official paperwork for the volunteers. Outside of the tutoring program, he has travelled thousands of kilometres to ensure the students have safe travel home to their communities.
Ray said, “It is a valuable and rewarding experience knowing that you are making a lasting life changing difference to young people’s lives both now and in the future. It will not only impact on their lives but also the lives of those that these young students may influence in their future lives and careers as well as their home communities.”
NRL Cowboys House students are some of the most geographically disadvantaged young people in the country. They are all Indigenous high school aged young people living away from home to access educational opportunity. They face many barriers such as language, homesickness and are all at least 3 – 5 years behind their academic peers when they arrive. Ray and the team help pave the way for these young people to overcome the many barriers they face. The positive community impact of Ray and the team of volunteers is immeasurable.
A high point for Ray has been to see the academic, sporting and social community involvement awards achieved by the students last year at the end of year Awards Presentation Night.
“It was amazing to be a part of this success in conjunction with the Management and staff and the Volunteers who give so much time to achieve this success,” Ray said. “The majority of the Volunteer Tutors were present to see the fantastic difference their dedication and commitment has made.
Certainly the major highlight was to see a number of students from the original group of 25 students in 2017 graduate with trades with local companies. To see the smiles on the faces of their families who all attended left a lasting impression that I will never forget.
I am proud to be part of a fantastic charity organisation that does so much that will leave a lasting footprint in the lives of many young people and their families.”
To anyone considering volunteering, Ray says, “The benefits to be gained from volunteering are extensive. Knowing you have done something to make a difference in somebody’s life no matter how big or small is reward in itself. To be in a position to give your time willingly without being paid to help somebody in need in an unconditional situation is a reward in itself that cannot be overestimated. Generally, a kind word or a smile says it all. The friendships made with people you may have never met before sometimes can be long lasting.”
Ray was nominated and shortlisted for the Volunteer Impact Award at the 2020 NQ Volunteer of the Year Virtual Awards.