Imagine leaving your family and friends at 18 years old, to travel to the opposite side of the world for 12 months of volunteering. This is exactly what Lena, Julian and Marie did in August last year, when they travelled from Germany to volunteer with Warrah in Dural. Now several months later, they describe their experience as “life-changing”.
For many years, local disability organisation Warrah has been inviting young graduates to spend 12 months volunteering for their organisation, which specialises in providing a range of services to children and adults with disabilities. Volunteers are selected through a partnership with international volunteer organisation Freunde Waldorf. The program provides a unique opportunity for individuals to experience different cultures and lifestyles, make new friends, and develop new skills. The volunteers receive accommodation and living expenses in exchange for their skills, knowledge, enthusiasm and passion for making a difference.
Volunteers participate in a diverse range of activities such as working with children in the school, contributing to the Biodynamic farm, and assisting in the organic farm shop. However, it’s not all work and no play, as during weekends and holidays, the volunteers can explore the beauty of Australia and indulge in its unique culture and lifestyle. This is a great opportunity for volunteers to broaden their horizons, create unforgettable memories, and make the most of their time here.
18 year old Lena expressed “I volunteer with students of all ages, from kindergarten through high school. I help with art projects, assist in the classroom, and even help with gardening, weaving, woodwork and cooking. I am learning so much about education, culture, and myself. I do miss my family and friends from time to time, but I love exploring this amazing country in my spare time. Even the creepy crawlies aren’t enough to stop me.”
Principal of Warrah Specialist School, Anna Wetzel says “We are very grateful that these wonderful young people are willing to travel to a new country to contribute in this way. We teach them about our approach to education, which is centred around the individual needs of each child, and we encourage them to bring their own creativity and ideas to the classroom. We believe that this exchange of knowledge and culture is one of the things that makes our school community so rich and vibrant. Our volunteers work tirelessly to provide the best possible care and support to our children, helping them to achieve their full potential. We have seen first-hand the positive impact that volunteers have on our school and the lives of our students”.
The international volunteer partnership is just one aspect of Warrah’s growing volunteer program, which also invites individuals, local schools, corporations and community organisations to make a positive contribution to the lives of people living with disabilities. Warrah regularly welcomes students from local schools, such as Pacific Hills, Redfield College and Glenaeon Rudolf Steiner School. Corporate organisations such as Deloitte, Australian Catholic University and Moits Demolition & Excavation have contributed staff hours. Dural Men’s Shed are a treasured partner, as well as the Master Weavers’ Guild.
Warrah’s Executive Manager of People, Culture and Community, Anna Hay, explains “We are grateful for the dedication of all our volunteers, who not only play a critical role in supporting Warrah, but also strengthen our community by providing important social connection and inclusion. Our participants and students benefit greatly from their passion, commitment and support”.
Lena, Julian and Marie will return to Germany in August 2023, where they will continue their studies. Warrah will receive the next cohort of international volunteers in September 2023.
“We sincerely thank our volunteers, and will wish them a safe trip back when they return to Germany later in the year. We hope that more individuals will be inspired to volunteer for a cause that aligns with their personal values and beliefs. With dedication and an open mind, it can be an enriching and unforgettable experience”, says Warrah CEO, Delia Gray.
To find out more about volunteer opportunities at Warrah Society, and help to create a ripple effect of positive change, please visit Warrah’s website www.warrah.org.au/volunteer.