Better together: Volunteer Reflection

20 May 2022

The following is a reflection from one of our amazing volunteers, Lynne about her experience assisting with JRS Australia. 

Having some time available and wanting to participate in meaningful work, I was quite excited when I came across the opportunity to volunteer with the Jesuit Refugee Service Foodbank. I didn’t hesitate to apply as I’m acutely aware of the plight of refugees, having volunteered previously with the St Vincent de Paul Society helping students from refugee backgrounds with their homework after school.

It was during that time I participated in a workshop/training session aiming to simulate the experience of what it might be like to have no alternative but to flee an unsafe situation, to leave one’s home and country with little or no notice, not knowing where one would be going or how to get there, leaving family members, friends, and belongings behind but facing an uncertain future.

After seriously imagining how I would feel being subjected to what refugees actually experience, a lasting impression was left with me, but of course no simulated experience can ever be anything like a real experience.

When I started at JRS Australia just over 12 months ago, it was in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, so that meant food had to be packed and delivered to refugees and their families. At JRS Australia my experience has been mostly with food packing, stacking shelves, helping unload donations and several shifts at reception answering phone calls and greeting visitors. I also helped at one of the COVID-19 vaccination clinics, which was a welcome opportunity to meet some of the people JRS Australia directly serves.

One of the aspects I particularly like about volunteering at JRS Australia is the variety – no two days are the same. It means having to think on your feet at times, but there is no pressure, just positive, friendly encouragement from staff and genuine appreciation of whatever we do. I also really enjoy the teamwork aspect, and have met some interesting, like-minded people.

A highlight and privilege for me working at JRS Australia has undoubtedly been meeting Zaki Haidari, the most inspirational and impressive young man who, himself a refugee, works helping other refugees with employment placements. As well, one memorable occasion was when several school groups came in to deliver donations of cooking oil they were juggling enthusiastically!

Witnessing the sheer generosity of people giving their time and donating food and many other essentials is awe-inspiring, and I love the ever-present energetic vibe in the place.

The most challenging aspect of the role for me has been lack of physical space, though it’s really not a problem, as everyone just makes it work!

Volunteering has enabled me to meet many amazing people, learn some new skills and consolidate existing ones and to have meaningful, positive experiences.

It’s a cliché to say that the rewards of volunteering are many, both to the volunteer and the cause, but most important is knowing that I’m using my time to make a difference in the lives of some of the most vulnerable members of our community.  

Find out how you can volunteer with JRS Australia here.