Volunteering for a cause that touches the heart
Volunteers are the heart of many not-for-profit organisations, bringing passion to a cause that matters most to them.
The Salvation Army relies on many dedicated volunteers to continue to offer services to people in need. Those who work for The Salvation Army are also given opportunities to contribute towards the wider mission, with volunteering being encouraged at both an individual and team level.
We spoke with Sarah, who works at The Salvation Army, about her volunteering experience at the Asylum Seeker and Refugee Service in Brunswick, Victoria. Sarah chose to volunteer at the service because she was aware of the challenges faced by asylum seekers and refugees, making her keen to find out more and help.
Helping those in need
The team at the Brunswick Asylum Seeker and Refugee Service assist asylum seekers and refugees in the local community who require assistance with food and clothing.
The service also sees people needing other relief. A case worker connects people to various services, providing information and support if someone needs help with living expenses, employment advice, etc.
In addition, Sarah explained, “An on-site chaplain is there for guidance and to help people to become more socially connected, whether it be to visit the local church or to volunteer. I gained more of an understanding about the different stages someone seeking asylum in Australia goes through.” Sarah also stated, “The chaplain visits people in the community to assist them with settling in.”
Volunteering to make a difference
For one day a week, across five weeks, Sarah helped to fill boxes with household groceries and met with clients who visited the service. She gave the boxes, assembled in various sizes to cater for different sized households, to those she met.
Boxes are filled with pantry items, such as breakfast cereal, flour, rice, lentils, cooking oil, canned fruit, tea, coffee and other basic items. Perishable items, such as bread and vegetables are also available.
“After a while, I got into the swing of it and was comfortable to show people through the clothing section too,” explained Sarah. Detailing how the service caters for those of varying needs, Sarah shared how she helped, “There are two different rooms that have various pre-loved or new supplies, depending on the needs of the clients. Part of my role was to make sure that items were distributed as evenly as they could be.”
Supplies are generously donated by other organisations with excess stock or the general public. Sarah states, “The recipients of goods collect what they need through the Doorways program we have at The Salvation Army and a selection provides for the Asylum Seeker and Refugee Service.”
The good in volunteering
Volunteering has a direct benefit to organisations that help those in need, which in turn, benefits the individuals who receive the help they need.
The challenges faced by asylum seekers and refugees were exacerbated during COVID lockdowns. “I was really moved by the support provided at the Asylum Seeker and Refugee Service and it was great to meet the team and those we help,” Sarah explained.
Reflecting on her volunteering experience, Sarah shared, “There was something that moved me every day. Talking to the workers and seeing the care and compassion they give, showed me how much love they have.”
Being a volunteer has given Sarah insight into how the Salvos help, “They’re assisting people at the service who need so much help beyond what they can give them in their situation. Despite this, the workers remain positive and persevere to help people as much as they can.”
If you’ve ever volunteered, you’ll get to reap the benefits of personal satisfaction, whilst at the same time helping someone in need. Sarah recalled volunteering while pregnant and relating to a pregnant lady who visited. “She was a bit further along in her pregnancy than me and needed different sized clothes, and I knew it wasn’t easy for her as she would need access to medicine and secure housing,” explained Sarah.
“Volunteering helps us to stay connected to what the mission of the Salvation Army is. It makes you energised through learning something new. I’m appreciative that we have a program that we can volunteer through,” says Sarah. Everyone can make a difference to those in need.
How can you volunteer?
Volunteers in the community are always needed. National Volunteer Week is celebrated from 15-21 May, and the theme ‘The Change Makers’ acknowledges the powerful impact that volunteers have on our communities. If you would like to make a difference to the lives of others by volunteering at the Salvos, visit https://www.salvationarmy.org.au/get-involved/volunteer-with-us/