To be able to work here…is truly inspirational because the staff at JRS have such an attitude of respect and compassion, and everybody who walks in through the door…is treated as an equal.”
I migrated to Australia in 1991, and I came as an English speaker, and even I sometimes couldn’t understand what Australians said to me. And I sometimes misread communications. So really, when I think of people who have come here and have fled hardship, and they come to a country where they don’t speak the language, they don’t know the customs, they don’t understand, necessarily, how people behave, and they have to battle for years and years to be able to stay here, for me I feel great empathy, but I also feel a great connection with them.
Volunteering is a wonderful opportunity for me to be able to talk to them, share their stories, laugh. To be able to work here in this centre and in the office is truly inspirational because the staff at JRS have such an attitude of respect and compassion, and everybody who walks in through the door in any of these centres is treated as an equal – in fact, even more, is made to feel like someone special, including the volunteers, and that’s something that’s so rare and so precious to have these days, and makes working as a volunteer a privilege.
I sometimes work on reception, on the front desk, or in hospitality [making hot coffee and tomato and cheese sandwiches]. And every volunteer has their own way of cutting up the sandwiches because all the volunteers come from different cultures as well, which is a great thing. So we get to meet each other as well as to meet everybody else. That’s the best part of the job, being able to meet clients and talk to them and get a little window into their lives, and hopefully for them to share a little moment with us.
The volunteers’ job is really the easiest. We don’t have the burden of being responsible for making decisions about people’s lives. We don’t have to spend endless hours working on health and safety regulations in the back office. We get to go home at the end of the day, and we have a safe and secure home [to go to].
A speech delivered during National Volunteer Week by Alana Simpson, JRS volunteer.