National Volunteer Week: “A Way to Give Back”

By: Mike Crooks

For Australian teacher Liz O’Sullivan, moving to Thailand for nearly two years to use her skills has been a rewarding experience.

“I learnt as much as I taught,” she said.

“I learnt about culture, language, food and a different way of life. I think living and working in Thailand has helped me become a better teacher and a better person.”

She is just one of the many Australians to be acknowledged and celebrated during National Volunteer Week.

“Vital support”

The week, which runs until May 21, recognises “the vital support that the millions of volunteers in our country provide to their communities, and encourages people to consider volunteering,” a Volunteering Australia statement read.

“National Volunteer Week 2023 is a celebration of our power to drive change and ensure volunteering is inclusive of all members of the Australian community.”

Volunteers come from all walks of life to help in a range of ways.

This includes volunteering for the rural fire services, hospitals, libraries, schools, aged care homes and the Red Cross and Lifeblood.

“Australian Red Cross couldn’t do what it does without our incredible volunteers, and National Volunteer Week is an important time for us to recognise and celebrate their incredible contributions,” Australian Red Cross chief of staff Penny Harrison said in an interview.

“Red Cross volunteers are present across the country on the ground providing care, support and assistance to those in need, when they need it most.”

“Red Cross volunteers are present across the country on the ground providing care, support and assistance to those in need, when they need it most.”

“Change makers”

Volunteering Australia’s theme for this year’s National Volunteer Week is “The Change Makers”, which highlights the impact volunteers make by supporting individuals both in Australia and around the world, local communities, and the nation.

“This National Volunteer Week we are asking, what kind of ‘Change Maker’ are you?” said Volunteering Australia in a statement.

“You may be a caregiver, guardian, energiser, defender, inquirer, communicator, a combination of these, or a different sort of Change Maker altogether.”

The charity is asking for people to “share your Change Maker type” on social media with a photo.


Ms O’Sullivan is one of those change-makers.

She did her volunteer work through Palms Australia, a mission-based Christian charity that facilitates “international volunteering for development”.

The charity aims to reach beyond the barriers of culture, religion, nationality and gender “to cooperate in achieving a just, sustainable, interdependent and peaceful world free of poverty”.

Ms O’Sullivan said the locals who she taught always greeted her with a big smile.

“I am grateful to have had this unique experience, even the challenges that came my way,” she said.


Katie is another Australia volunteer. She does her unpaid work for the Red Cross. Every Friday, Katie visits 94-year-old Kathryn for a cuppa and a chat.

When Kathryn was more mobile, Katie used to take her on picnics, visits to art galleries or shopping trips.

“We always enjoyed ourselves and had lots of fun, and it was so good for Kathryn,” Katie said.

Kathryn said that if it weren’t for Katie’s visits she would feel “forgotten” in society.

“I would feel isolated,” she said. “I’d be stuck in the house and not see anyone.”


Meanwhile, Dr Rosaleen Smyth is another Palms Australia volunteer who has done important work in Tanzania, Papua New Guinea and Thailand.

“I have enjoyed engaging with students from other cultures,” Dr Smyth said.

“My final experience was as a tutor for the Diploma in Liberal Studies Program run by the Australian Catholic University on the Thai-Burma border.

“The highlight was the joy of the students and their parents, relatives and friends at their graduation ceremonies.”

Lending a hand

According to Volunteering Australia, more than 5 million people volunteer through an organisation or group each year (based on 2020 figures).

“Volunteering expands your skills and experience, increases your employability and is a way to stay active and engaged with the community,” the Red Cross said in a statement.

“It’s also a way for you to give back to the community and help people who need a hand.”

Article supplied with thanks to Hope Media.

Feature image: Photo by ray sangga kusuma on Unsplash 

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