Someone once said to me “Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless.”
I first started volunteering in 2010 after receiving a rude awakening of how short life is from the lost of a dear friend to a common enemy to most of us, cancer. I came to the strong realization that life is just simply way too short to not want to leave a positive lasting impression and to make a difference to the people and community around you. Of course I had done a lot of odd volunteering gigs here and there helping out with school festivities and lending a helping hand in the local cake stall. But this time, I meant it – I some research and signed myself up to many things. Surprisingly, the recruitment process to being a volunteer is not as simple as people might think with some obviously requiring things like national police checks, working with children checks and interviews.
A few months later, I was officially a volunteer for an amazing children’s organization called the Starlight Children’s Foundation, helping out in their newly developed Starlight Express Room at Adelaide’s Women & Children’s Hospital. And also a volunteer for an equally special organization called Camp Quality where they take children with cancer, their siblings or their families on unique, out of this world-fun and most importantly for the campers, expense-free camps to various locations local and nationally. In addition to these two commitments, I became a mental health companion volunteer for St Vincent de Paul Society’s Compeer Program. I specifically choose this program because mental illness is close to my heart and I believe everyone deserves companionship regardless of their mental health status. These commitments required me to take time out of my days and weeks juggling school, work, social events and heath issues. But part of me knew, it was all worth it 🙂
First volunteering event I did for Starlight was Starlight Day in 2010 – Looking back & it was a lot of fun. With my friend B & Captain Awkward!
Compilation of photos at various Starlight events & being silly in the Starlight Express Room – random from 2010, 2011 & 2012 🙂
Fun times at Camp Quality! I met so many lovely people. From new volunteers, to playing games like Hungry Hippo and making Playdoh with young campers. Getting your face painted or even flying in a private plane to view the beautiful town of Robe.
I’ll be honest, there were definitely some occasions where I was definitely stressed out but at the end of the day it was really worth it. To experience a fulfillment like no other knowing your actions made someone else’s day better – someone who at that moment in time, is suffering. But was this enough for Akii? No, of course not.. the answer? Heck if I know, but I also became to annual organizer for Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea for the Cancer Council Australia. Each year around the same time, I’d plan, organize, recruit and delegate people who would be willing and able to help me out with raising funds for the Cancer Council. This was a particularly special organization to me because although I had never used their services personally (I may elaborate further in a future post.. :)) I know how common and heart breaking cancer can be, especially after not only losing this friend but also my only uncle when I was just a child. I also became a team leader for two years supporting the Leukemia Foundation‘s Light the Night in memorabilia of losing my dear friend who I mentioned earlier in this post. I became involved in anything and everything from Starlight Day, Pink Ribbon Day, Cupcake Day for the RSPCA , Adelaide’s annual City to Bay Fun Run and even became a Youth Mentor for High middle school students through the YWCA of Adelaide. I put my heart and soul into these events and from them, I not only became a better person I also received many positive new outlooks in life :). Not only that I was able to recruit and get so many of my family and friends to be involved in volunteering too! 😀
Pictures from the various Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea’s I hosted in 2010, 2011 & 2012. I held the first one in my home and raised a about 600 AUD and then decided to take it a little bit more seriously by applying for permit to host the event at UniSA City East Campus with both years raising over 1,500 AUD!!!! An incredible achievement which I couldn’t have done without the help of other self-less volunteers who not only helped me to bake, sell but also supported me through the process 🙂
‘Inspire’ was the name I gave to my team at the City to Bay – I think we were able to raise an impressive $1,400 for Starlight!
Myself & a bunch of other volunteers for various Cancer Council events! Meeting new people & raising funds!
Pink Ribbon Day stall in Rundle Mall, Adelaide with an incredible bunch of friends I was able to get to volunteer with me!
Helping out my animal-loving friend W for the RSPCA Cupcake Day in front of Pet Barn, Mile End.
Lighting the Night for the Leukemia Foundation in 2010 & 2011 – My sister and I had ‘Gold Lanterns’ in memory of our lost friend.
Youth mentoring for the Young Women’s Christan Association for ‘Go Girls!‘ – not only serious conversations about life and growing up but also some seriously delicious foods, support & celebration with an amazing bunch of young individuals 🙂
What’s the point of me saying all of the above? Well, really it’s to express that although I had a lot going on with my life – volunteering not provided me with the opportunity to give back to my community but at the same time, it gave me back more than anyone could imagine, an overwhelming fulfillment that I may have changed someone’s life, even for just a moment. And I’m thankful of all the people I’ve met and stories I’ve heard along the way. People often asked me how I handled all the things that I did and my answer is I have no idea.. I’m only human and the stress took its toll at times – if only I didn’t have to work and still be able to do all these incredible things right? Unfortunately that’s the dream! But all I know is that for as long as I live, I’ll be proud of the contributions I made whether or not I am remembered for them – which I guess is a positive thing, since Australian volunteer rates are increasing at a great rate according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2008). Yeah I know, I can’t believe I’m referencing on my blog – SEE, THIS IS WHAT TOO MUCH UNI DOES TO YOU! -__-‘ haha
Volunteering isn’t for everyone and is most definitely not an expectation – that’s why we’re called volunteers right? And like I’ve mentioned previously – I won’t lie, it can be stressful. But I think it’s all about finding what you’re passionate about and doing it. Some people may or may not find that – and that’s okay too. Plus you don’t have to go ‘volunteer-crazy’ like I obviously did :P. Regardless, I’ve enjoyed the journey so far!
However, after moving to Japan – I had to cease these commitments temporarily… meaning it’s likely that when I return to Australia, although I might not pick up exactly where I left off – I don’t think it’s possible for me to stop wanting to contribute and imprint some more of positive on the world :). Hopefully I’ll be able to find a suitable job position that allows me to do both. Make a difference, no matter how small right? The people that you meet, the stories you hear and the changes you could make in people you’d least expect to. This leads to me to talk about my experiences volunteering in Japan & my attendance at the USLS…
In Japan I started volunteering at an organization called OIFA, short for, the Oyama International Friendship Association where I have contributed in various events including the Oxfam 2013 Japan Trail walker – I attended this event on May 11th 2013 which just happened to be my 21st birthday. Coincidence?! I think not 😛 At this event, I met so many people from all over the world and although the weather was a little worst for ware, the human spirit is truly amazing – the participants of this event hiked over 100km to raise funds to assist in alleviating world poverty and hunger. If that doesn’t leave a positive warmth in your heart, I don’t know what will.
Nowadays I volunteer by teaching free community English classes to 3-5year old Japanese toodlers and their parents. By giving them a positive boost and friendly environment, I hope to increase their chances of being positive about learning English as they grow! 😀
21st Birthday! 🙂 Me volunteering this year at the Japan Oxfam Trailwalker event in Shizuoka, Japan
In August 2013 this year I was invited to attend an event called the 4th University Scholars Leadership Symposium which was held in Manila, Philippines. The symposium was about social change and UN world millennium goals. This event requires participants to be invited by their respective universities to attend or if independent participants wanted to go, they needed to submit an application form. The ladder is what I did as my university does not sponsor or have an association with this event (which personally I think is a shame). Unfortunately the only hiccup was that I there was a registration fee, attendance fee and then of course, I’d have to fly to Manila.
Thankfully for me, my boyfriend who is extremely and unconditionally supportive of all my volunteering pursuits – gave this event to me as a 21st birthday present, covering the cost of basically everything (including spending money) for me! I was gob smacked and thankful.
At this event I met SO MANY amazing people from all over the world – some of which, thanks to the power of social media – I still keep in contact with despite us all living in literally different regions of the world. Following are some photos and highlights of my symposium experience. Unfortunately because the symposium was literally 9-5 every single day while I was in Manila, I wasn’t able to explore THAT much of the country itself but I was able to do a few things here and there (mainly eat lol) which you’ll be able to see in the photos too.
Collection of photos from the USLS – so many people, so many great memories, so much inspiration! Thank you 🙂
Delicious foods of the amazing Philippines – from meats, seafood, exotic fruits & their speciality ‘Halo-Halo’ dessert!
Volunteering doesn’t always mean all work and no play – I had the opportunity to meet some great people and one of which is now a great friend. She gave me the opportunity to experience some Manila luxury at the Sofitel. Definitely recommended hotel 🙂
This post was a little longer than usual but I hope that it was a positive read. Please feel free to leave any comments, feedback or suggestions on this post or for future posts. Cheers for stopping by. I hope you’re all well – take care & keep smiling, Akii xoxo (^___^)
Ps. if anyone has any questions about volunteering, where to get started, any personal things – please feel free to shoot me a personal email or comment on this post.