Ethan’s volunteering experience with Northcott
This week is National Volunteer Week (21-27 May), so we’re saying thanks to the children and adults who generously give their time to support Northcott’s work with people with disability and their families.
Some six million Australians* generously volunteer their time to support their communities and give back to society. Northcott is lucky to have a committed and dedicated group of more than 100 volunteers based across NSW who donate their time to work with our customers and staff.
These people, who range from school-aged to retired, work in many different areas. Some volunteer directly with customers in our Everyday Life Skills, Recreation and Vocational Skills programs, while others volunteer for skilled roles where they can offer their professional expertise to our staff.
To celebrate all our volunteers, we spoke to 16-year-old Ethan, from St Ignatius College Riverview, who has been volunteering his Saturday mornings to help out at our fortnightly Kids Recreation program in Lane Cove. With previous experience volunteering with other organisations, Ethan is somewhat of a seasoned-hand at giving back – he shares his thoughts below.
What volunteer work have you done before volunteering with Northcott?
I’ve worked in an elderly home and I’ve also worked at a homeless shelter in the city.
How did you get involved in the volunteering at Northcott?
I was emailed about volunteering with Northcott through my school about a year and a half ago. I took up the opportunity and really enjoyed it the first time, so I ended up coming back. I’ve now come back five or six times to help at the Saturday Kids Recreation program.
Why did you keep coming back?
The kids; once you got to know them, were really friendly. At the start they were so shy, but after you get so close to someone it’s great. Every time I came back I became more familiar with them. They like to see the same faces and they recognise you so that’s really great.
What did you do at the Kids Recreation program?
Each time we would start off by getting to know the kids, and were told what the needs of certain children were. Based on the schedule for the day, we would start with playing with toys and puzzles inside for a while, or playing outside and in the sand pit. It really depends on what the kid you’re working with wants to do.
Most of the time, we were all assigned to one kid, but other times they would all want to do the same thing and we’d have group activities.
What did you learn from volunteering with children with disability?
Being a completely new experience to me, I think the most important thing I learnt from working with children with disability was that once you get to a point where you’re familiar after being around them a lot, it doesn’t feel like you’re working with kids that are any different from a child without disability. They have the same fun and have their own loveable personalities.
Are there any perceptions you are now more aware of in relation to people with disability?
I guess when you don’t get to work with the kids on a personal level, you begin to have preconceived ideas about what a child is like, or what they’ve gone through. It’s not until you get to experience and create your own relationships with people with disability, that you really get to look past your own judgement, and see them for what they really are. Regular people, like you and me.
Would you do volunteering with children with disability again?
Absolutely – I loved it! I think this program is amazing and is so beneficial in terms of what it does for the kids.
What would you say to somebody else interested in volunteering with people with disability?
It definitely requires an open mind and getting very hands-on with the work you do. It takes a lot of listening and working together with the people who know what they are doing. From there, it is about taking all of your previous misconceptions and doubts and putting them aside to truly bring joy to these kids. I think then you can have a really meaningful experience and become open to them.
Any finals words about volunteering?
I think volunteering is a great opportunity. You get to create relationships with both the kids and the workers that you never think you’d make. You learn new things about yourself, and discover potential career options in the process.
Overall, I felt that the Northcott staff were incredibly welcoming to me as a new volunteer, and it was altogether such a rewarding experience for everybody involved.
*Volunteering Australia 2010
Northcott’s new ambassador and Parramatta Eels hooker, Cameron King, is no stranger to giving back to the community and now Northcott