So I concentrate on what I can do: Volunteer Reflection

17 May 2022

The following is a reflection from our long term volunteer Ellen about her experience volunteering with JRS Australia. 

I’ve been volunteering for Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Australia for about 5 years now. Generally volunteering is thought of as beneficial for others and for yourself and studies have proven that to be true. I’ve met many lovely people while volunteering for JRS Australia including staff, clients and my fellow volunteers. I’ve enjoyed being able to do my part, however small, to assist forcibly displaced people. I’ve had fun. One particular fond memory was when I cooked with a group of women clients who all the while, joked, laughed and danced with a joy that belied their situation.

However, volunteering does have its down sides. I often feel helpless as the need is so great. The truth is there have been times when I’ve thought about quitting. Hearing about and meeting people who are or were stuck in detention for years is heartbreaking. It seems so cruel, so un-Australian and yet here we are.

On days when I’ve been on reception, I’ve had clients ring up and tell me that they can’t pay their rent, pay for medication or are unable to find employment. There are so many barriers that our clients face that are of no fault of their own.

I met a client once whose husband was in a car accident not long after arriving in Australia and was paralysed. She was his carer and was relying on JRS and her adult children to support them financially. When I hear these stories, I want to wave a magic wand and fix it and I can’t.

So I concentrate on what I can do.

I can listen.

I can pass on messages to case workers. Pre-COVID-19, I could offer food in person. Now, when in the role of dispatcher, I can phone clients to let them know when their food delivery will arrive.

I can help make up Mother’s Day gifts. Little things that in themselves aren’t much, but I do my bit as part of the JRS Australia team.

The JRS Australia team assist clients find accommodation, work, and legal help. We help cover bills. We give people food and other necessities. We advocate for justice for people seeking protection. We walk alongside them in their struggles.

So even though I may not do much myself, together we do a lot, and I’m thankful to be a part of that.

Ellen and her mother, Rosanne pictured above after packing 80 Mother’s Day bags for the mums on our Foodbank delivery list. Some items are from Share the Dignity, some from donations, and others sourced by Ellen and Rosanne.

Find out how you can volunteer with JRS Australia here.