Volunteering gives people an opportunity to share their skills and contribute back to the community, which builds self-esteem and a sense of belonging. Working in the hub and the school as a volunteer can open up valuable pathways to vocational study and employment. This is particularly important for families who have recently arrived in Australia. Having the hands-on help of volunteers gives hub leaders more time to focus on priorities other than directly running activities. Trusted volunteers can also keep the hub open while a hub leader is out getting to know families and service providers or attending meetings. Each school will have defined procedures for sourcing and engaging volunteers. Hub leaders should confirm volunteer engagement conditions directly with the school.
After learning that many children were arriving at school in the City of Hume without having eaten a proper breakfast, a local company funded a pilot of the Healthy Start program in three of our community hubs.
Healthy Start breakfast programs usually run for an hour before school starts. They provide children with a healthy breakfast while engaging families in the school, enhancing social connectedness, promoting healthy eating and creating vocational pathways.
The City of Hume program has grown to over 60 parents and children attending each week at each school. Each school has a paid Healthy Start program facilitator who is supported by parent and community volunteers.
The volunteering opportunity provides on-the-job experience for hub parents, with many then going on to help out at other school events. Some volunteers have also been motivated to enrol in English courses, or courses in hospitality or cooking, to increase their employability.
One recently arrived Syrian refugee who volunteers to make pancakes for the Healthy Start program says: “One of the things I like best about volunteering is talking English with others. Not having English is a barrier. Here I can practise my English with all the other parents and children.”
Dandenong West Primary School Hub supported three newly arrived mums to attend a Women in Leadership Course at the local neighbourhood house.
The course gave the women the confidence to volunteer at the school and all three have since joined the school committee. The women come to the committee meetings well prepared with lots of questions and ideas. They contribute different perspectives, including what their children are experiencing in school.
Hub leader, Vikki, says the three women have become the “go-to people at the school” and an integral part of the hub team.
There is a wealth of knowledge across our community hubs network about working with volunteers. We’ve drawn on this experience to produce a practical resource kit to help hub leaders understand what’s involved in volunteering. It’s a simple, step-by-step guide with templates of volunteer position descriptions and checklists.
What are the special talents, skills and passions of your hub parents? When you’re setting up a program, always consider the variety of ways parents can help. This could range from asking someone to help cut up fruit or organise tea and coffee for a group, to tapping into someone’s abilities, such as child minding, playing a musical instrument, dancing, leading an exercise class or demonstrating a traditional handicraft.
Getting parents to help out in the hub and/or the school can also be a constructive way of helping them to improve their English language skills.
Find ways to celebrate and acknowledge the contributions of your volunteers. This could range from simply saying ‘Thank you’, to remembering someone’s birthday and hosting a morning tea to show them how much they are valued.
Consider organising celebrations to mark National Volunteer Week and/or International Volunteers Day.