I live in a family of nine people and I help with taking care of foster animals for an animal rescue. I have helped care for cats and kittens, dogs and puppies, and guinea pigs. We have to clean cages and litter boxes for some of them. We also need to give them lots of cuddles, especially the guinea pigs so that they won't be scared of humans. I feel happy when they get to be adopted by a family because they are now calm and happy around people.
For my Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award, I needed a volunteer opportunity I could do regularly. I arranged with my local CFA to help out with weekly truck checks (ensuring all equipment is present and working). By the time I finished my volunteering, I’d learnt a lot about the CFA, and decided to join the local brigade. I’ve been a volunteer firefighter for four years now, and the training in leadership, first aid, communication and practical skills has been great. I have been to a variety of local callouts, and last year travelled to Gippsland to help fight the bushfires.
I love being around animals and I’m interested in working with kids who have a disability so RDA is a good fit for me. I feed, groom and tack up the horses. I also help by walking beside the rider to ensure they don’t fall off. I volunteer one morning a week, and enjoy being outside, getting to know the horses, and being useful.
At age 13 I took on the role of editor for the teens column in HEN’s quarterly magazine Otherways. My editorial would often involve researching a topic. Now at age 16 I am undertaking the Duke of Edinburgh Award and I am volunteering for my local historical society. During COVID my work has involved researching and writing articles, and in the future I will participate in tasks such as digitising records, helping to maintain the historical society’s museum and whatever else may be required.
Earlier this year when I was 16, I did work experience with an electrical company. I learnt so much, from underground wiring, roughing in a house and fitting off light switches and power points. It was a great experience and I have continued to work part time with the company ever since. I was offered an apprenticeship but feel I am still a bit young but intend to take up this opportunity next year.
When I was 16, I spent a week working at a research and development company which tests new products for food manufacturers. It was interesting to see how products are developed, and it was a good experience in turning up for work each day. This experience helped me to realise that I wouldn’t enjoy a lab based job, but the tasting part was fun.
I was tiny when I started helping my family sell poppies and ANZAC badges outside our local supermarket. More than ten years later, I’m still doing it. When Mum and I sell together, I usually get more customers, because people like to see young people collecting. The RSL gives us a tray of badges, and we can fit selling around other commitments.
A local company gave me one week of work experience. I helped to service engines, replaced trailer bearings, and cleaned up engine parts.Working on boats was new to me, so I learnt a lot, and the owner of the business was very encouraging about my plan to study engineering. The work experience was supposed to be unpaid, but the owner was pleased with my work, and gave me $100 at the end of the week which was a nice surprise.
I started volunteering at PO when I was 17. After training, I was paired with a different client for each camp. I’m given an information file to read, then call the parents to discuss their children’s needs and how best to care for them. The kids often have multiple conditions, and complex needs, and I’m responsible for making sure they have a great weekend. It’s really rewarding, and five years later I’m still volunteering a couple of times a year.
I started Surf Lifesaving in under 10’s after moving to the Mornington Peninsula. I have loved it since day one. I’m 16 now, and have learnt a variety of useful skills from reading the conditions (rips, currents, wind and waves) and identifying hazards. I have also been able to gain valuable awards like Surf Rescue Certificate, Bronze Medallion, First Aid and Advanced Resuscitation Techniques. I love volunteering by patrolling the beaches over the summer season and feel it is a great way to give back to the community. It is also a great way to keep fit all year round and over summer there are competitions all over Victoria which I compete in. I have even been able to travel interstate to compete.
Gardening/working bees: these are great for creating connections and building friendships with the people you work alongside. You also learn handy tips and get to feel satisfied that you have made a difference through hard work. Even if you are new to gardening, there is always a job waiting for you that's easy to learn and do.
Fostering and training animals: start with easy ones and build your experience and confidence so that you can safely train and care for more difficult cases. Some just need a safe place to stay until they get adopted, others need training before they are suitable for most homes. Guinea pigs are the easiest to begin training with as they just need lots of cuddles to calm them down and teach them that humans aren't so scary. I have cared for over 40 dogs, 30 cats and... lots of guinea pigs.
Grooming guinea pigs: many people are not confident with trimming their piggie's fur and claws, so they bring them to me to do it for them. It's a bit nerve-wracking at first, but the more you do it, the more you know what you're doing.
Helping and babysitting for young mothers: being the 2nd oldest of 7 kids, I was prepared for this at an early age, but even if you have never looked after kids younger than you before, it's not as scary as you might think! Start with helping a more confident mum so that you can learn basic things from her, and that means that she'll be right there if something goes wrong. Sometimes just having you there to play with the kids so that they're distracted and out of trouble is the best help you can give!
Many home educated students undertake volunteer work and work experience, often leading to a career or higher education pathway. Below are some stories from our home ed teens and alumni on their volunteering and work experience.