Volunteering and Values

I spent all three years of my uni degree volunteering in various capacities for various organisations – all a part of my inherent lack of ability to sit still - but the one that stayed strong throughout them all was my role in World Vision’s youth arm – VGen.

When I signed up on a whim in 2016 due to its connection to World Vision (my dream employer), VGen, short for Vision Generation, was in a rebuilding stage and was seeking a Queensland Communications Officer. With absolutely no experience in comms apart from being an avid poster on my personal Instagram, I jumped in with gusto, determined to make the most of this awesome opportunity – and make the most of it I did! Thanks to the amazing support of the Youth Coordinator in World Vision’s Head Office, I was encouraged to apply for the VGen National Social Media and Comms role after only 14 months and the rest is history!

I’d be lying if I said my time in VGen was always easy; a lot of the time it was a slog. Like I said, VGen was in a rebuilding stage, which meant that sometimes we’d organise events and only the 5 people on the organising team would show up. A lot of the time even the organisers wouldn’t attend meetings, because uni is busy and sometimes volunteering just can’t be your top priority. Honestly, for an idealist like me who thought my VGen involvement was going to be the opportunity of a lifetime, these moments could be really disappointing. But at the same time, it taught me resilience. It taught me that if you truly believe in the inherent value of what you’re doing, that you should keep going, because even incremental change is something.

In my time in VGen we ran successful campaigns and not-so-successful ones. The aid budget kept getting cut despite our hard work and budget-watching parties (yes, that’s a thing). At the same time, we helped lobby the government to get the #KidsOffNauru, which happened, largely due to the change in public sentiment around this policy position. Successes like this definitely made me feel like my hard work was worth it.

Like I said, I went into these comms roles with absolutely no idea what I was doing, which ended up being part of the fun! I learnt so much in my 3 years with VGen – both about managing social media channels, but also about how to engage in one-on-one conversations about contentious issues. I realised that it’s always important to give something a go, especially if you aren’t experienced in that field, because that’s when you learn the most!

Last, and probably most importantly, VGen gave me a network of fellow-changemakers who saw the world like I did and truly wanted to make positive change. The impact this had on my life cannot be understated. While I don’t see them as often as I like, I now have a group of friends from all over the country, who send me great opportunities when they come around and support me in all my endeavours, even from afar.

Yes, my volunteering took me to places like Myanmar for a youth conference – an experience I will never forget; yes, the connections I made saw me with an opportunity for a short-term stint in paid work with World Vision – a dream job on all accounts; but I genuinely believe that the best thing I got out of this time was the satisfaction in knowing that I was helping to make the world a better place, and that I wasn’t alone in doing it.