National Volunteer Week: Something for everyone

Unpacking the motivations behind volunteering

This National Volunteer Week, we caught up with a student, graduate and community members on why they choose to give their time.

For engineering cadet Casey Flemming, volunteering isn’t a question of “when will I find the time?” but “what will I do next?” 

The Bachelor of Civil Engineering student wears a lot of hats, participating in plenty of university-based initiatives. She’s an executive in both the UOW women in STEM and civil engineering societies, a Pulse volunteer and an In2Uni mentor, and has volunteered for Parkrun, Vinnies Australia and Girl Guides.  

While it seems like a lot of work, Casey has created a system that works for her to balance her education and work with her commitment to serving her community.  

A young woman in a light blue collared business shirt is smiling Casey balances work, study and volunteering for various initiatives.

“Volunteering is something that I ensure I always allocate time for. The beauty of volunteering is that you can choose your own adventure and there are so many opportunities to give back that do not require large amounts of time and effort,” she says. 

“I volunteer because I enjoy the opportunity to challenge myself, meet new people, and take on new experiences. It provides me with new perspectives and learnings that I would not have otherwise had the chance to encounter. Volunteering is a wholesome and fulfilling experience, and I love giving back.” 

Giving back globally

Bachelor of Nursing graduate Amanda-Mei Christy’s volunteering has taken her around the world to Irapuato, Mexico. 

The city, about four hours northwest of Mexico City, is a major thoroughfare for freight trains often used by migrants in hopes of reaching the US.  

For six months, Amanda is volunteering with the NGO Amigos del Tren, providing nurse care to migrants. 

“Many people have made a treacherous journey through the jungle and present with wounds, infections, muscular injuries, broken bones, amputations, and more,” says Amanda.  

“Sometimes, it is more impactful to give my time and have a genuine conversation than to provide medical care. The people living on the streets here inspire me, they have more joy to give than those who are blessed with comfort and privilege.” 

A woman is crouched on the floor next to a medical bag, bandading a patient's feet Amanda provides medical help to migrants in Irapuato.

It is the second time Amanda has headed to Mexico to volunteer her nursing expertise, having previously assisted at a drug rehabilitation centre.  

“Whether practicing on a busy surgical ward in Sydney, Australia, or on the streets of Mexico, I have taken the foundations of person-centered care and clinical judgement with me,” she says. 

“The skills I learned at UOW and at St George Hospital helped prepare me to be adaptable and resourceful in a multitude of clinical scenarios. It has also allowed me to recognise the importance of respecting diversity of care.” 

A campus community

For local retirees Chris Thompson and Rosalie Montagner, volunteering isn’t as intense as medical care in Mexico, but it is as rewarding.  

The respective Chair and Secretary have volunteered for the UOW Alumni Bookshop for more than fifteen years each, with no plans on giving up soon.  

“The bookshop really is my happy place,” says Rosalie.  

“It’s relaxing but we keep busy and get to meet such lovely people - the students are delightful.” 

The Bookshop is completely volunteer run, with hundreds of books donated and sold for as little as $1 each.  

Two women are sitting in front of a shelf full of books, smiling Chris and Rosalie have each volunteered on campus for more than 15 years.

Chair Chris says the Bookshop has helped her build relationships with people from all over the world and form connections with those she may not otherwise have met.  

“Sometimes we feel like we’re the grandparents of the university. We get a lot of people who come in for books but stay for a tea and a chat,” she says. 

“A lot of students sometimes are living far away and missing home and sometimes just need someone to have a yarn to, so we can be that person for them.” 

For anyone thinking of volunteering, the Alumni Bookshop door is always open.  

“We have forms available for volunteers to fill out and we’d be more than happy to welcome anyone who wants to join,” says Rosalie.  

“Someone said to me once that it is better to give than receive, and it really is,” says Chris.  

“You are giving your time, so make sure you are in an environment you enjoy with company you enjoy.”