For a number of years I’ve had it on my bucket list to do some volunteer work but with a family and a busy travel schedule with work there never seemed to be enough time in the day. Then at the end of last year having been made redundant and finding myself at home with time on my hands I finally found the opportunity to give it a go.
Since January this year I have been helping out at the Alannah & Madeline Foundation (AMF) with their Buddy Bag Program. Buddy Bags contain new and essential items such as toiletries, pyjamas, socks, underwear and a pillowcase, as well as comfort items such as a book, photo frame and teddy bear. They are provided to children who are placed into emergency care as a result of family violence – often leaving behind all of their belongings. Buddy Bags are something children can call their own, no matter where they go, restoring a sense of safety and security into their lives during a traumatic time. Since 2007, AMF have delivered more than 40,000 Buddy Bags to children across Australia.
On a Tuesday I go to AMF to help unpack the many supplies that come in every month to make up all of the different components of the Buddy Bags. The many hundreds of teddies, pyjamas, books and other items need to be unpacked, sorted and grouped into age categories. These are then ready for corporate volunteers to fill into backpacks.
My experience of volunteering with AMF has been an extremely rewarding one. It has allowed me to take part in a more hands on, practical activity, which is pretty novel for me after years in a desk-based role. It has also been nice to undertake a task with such pertinent and tangible outcomes. Every two weeks a large number of bags move out of the packing facility and you know that at the end of the chain there is a child who has been through a terribly traumatic experience who is snuggling into bed with a new teddy! So every time I unpack a teddy from a box and place it on the shelf I sprinkle it with a little bit of love.
Volunteering gives you the opportunity to meet new people from all walks of life. It allows you to utilise your skills in a new environment and also learn some new ones. It also allows you to see and hear first hand some of realities of modern life where not every one is fortunate enough to be surrounded by a loving family and wake up in a warm familiar bed every morning. It’s that kind of experience that gives you context that just dropping a $2 coin in a tin will never do. So give it a go…