The 2018 winners in the community engagement category have all contributed significantly to the Adelaide community through volunteering. Their experiences have given them the chance to learn about new cultures, gain experience and make lifelong friends. We invited them to share their stories.
Winner: Nguyen Thi Thanh Thien from Vietnam
Making a difference for people with a disability
During her time studying in Adelaide, Thi Thanh Thien has volunteered with several student clubs and local organisations, with a focus on supporting people with disabilities. Her work has touched the lives of many.
Tell us about some of your volunteer work in Adelaide.
I came to Adelaide to study social work with a focus on people with disabilities. I started my volunteer journey a year ago with Holiday Explorers, which provides a wide range of holiday trips for people with intellectual disabilities. I’ve helped with day trips and weekend trips where we care for tourists to ensure they feel safe and supported to enjoy community activities. I believe people with disabilities should be able to explore the world and attend local and regional events, which is why I’m happy to be part of this important group.
Tell us about the Flinders University Students with Disabilities Association.
I established the Flinders University Students with Disabilities Association in 2017 with friends who are also group members. In our club, we share life experiences and help each other overcome difficulties. We listen to each other, and together we can build confidence and feel more connected in our community.
We’ve run outdoor activities and invited guest speakers to our monthly meetings. We’re also creating a video to show what living with a disability is really like. As a social work student who has a disability herself, I’m working with my fellow club members to reduce the negative stereotypes and raise awareness about the rights and abilities of people with disabilities.
What inspires you to volunteer?
I volunteer to play my role in creating a healthy society, whether it’s working with people with disabilities or other work. I’m a volunteer mentor at Blackwood High School where I help young people realise and enhance their strengths. I’m also an executive member of the Vietnamese Student Association where we celebrate our culture and bring Vietnamese students together. Although my volunteering is just a small thing, I know it can make a real difference to the lives of people and organisations in need.
Highly Commended: Chen Zhang from China
In her two and a half years in Adelaide, Chen has volunteered for over 13 community events, programs and organisations including the SALA Festival, City of Adelaide, SANFL, Pacific School Games and more.
For the SALA Festival, Chen developed a series of bilingual art tours which were delivered in English and Mandarin, providing the South Australian Chinese community greater access to the festival. Chen also worked with the City of Adelaide’s Wellbeing of Adelaide Youth program to deliver a photovoice project where young people from several youth organisations were asked to share their views on wellbeing through photography and vocal descriptions.
Chen says her volunteer work has improved her English and given her valuable experience in her field of social work. She says volunteering has taught her more about the history, culture and people of Adelaide.
Highly Commended: Hoi Yan (Kitty) Wong from China
Kitty’s volunteering experience ranges from mentoring new students to promoting public health to ensuring workers are safe on the job and more. As a student mentor, Kitty has helped over 50 new students gain confidence in their studies as they settled into university life.
As a nutrition student, she’s also actively participated in community-based health events run by Southern Cross Care, Cancer Council and the Nutrition Society of Australia, as well as volunteering with Science Alive, providing health information to the public and taking on rostering duties at St John Ambulance.
Kitty says her enthusiasm for volunteering opened the door for her to make new friends, experience new cultures and gain relevant work-ready skills. She’s managed to balance her volunteer work with her studies and says being busy helps her to find purpose and increase her productivity.