National Volunteer Week (NVW) is just around the corner! This annual celebration gives an opportunity for the generosity of the 6 million volunteers to be acknowledged, recognised and honoured. The beauty of volunteering is that anybody can do it; from children to the elderly, CEO’s to students, anybody. This year, Volunteering Australia announced 2019’s theme as ‘Making a world of Difference’.

Volunteers can be part of varied programs, organisations, events, fundraisers and award shows like the ZEST Awards led by Western Sydney Community Forum (WSCF). The ZEST Awards is a platform where the remarkable work of the community sector across the Western Sydney region is highlighted, recognised and celebrated. This award ceremony promotes a positive image of the region, bringing to light the assets, diversity, creative and innovative work of outstanding projects, organisations and individuals. The continued success of this incredible evening is helped made possible with the wonderful work of our volunteers.

In recognition of NVW, WSCF would like to acknowledge all the volunteers who graciously offered their time and services to the organisation and ensure the events and programs are a success. Pei-Pei Chen is one of the many volunteers who offered their time and efforts to the ZEST Awards this year. Pei-Pei has big plans to change the world or at the very least her world. In addition to being a ZEST Award Volunteer, Pei-Pei is also a Citizen Scholar Award recipient of Western Sydney University. She has studied law and international studies and is currently interning at Justice Action, an organisation that often undertakes a grassroots approach in affecting change.

Pei Pei’s interest and drive to make community change plus her passion to interact with inspiration people led her to apply for the Zest Awards. Through volunteering for the Zest awards, Pei Pei had the opportunity to meet with community hero’s, hear their stories and learn from their experiences. Being able to see the impact individuals, organisations and projects are making was a highlight of the evening.

Volunteering is a great platform to use the talent and skills of people like Pei-Pei to effect change. Young people today can feel as though they are not equipped with the resources, positions of power or influence that can effect instant worldwide change. To combat this, Pei-Pei believes that volunteering gives her the opportunity to be engaged with her community through activities such as the University-organised program, ‘English Conversation Group’. Pei-Pei described this program where she was a volunteer facilitator, as one that encourages international students to explore and get aquatinted with the ‘Australian University environment, assist them in learning about the Australian culture and people, and simply allowing them to communicate in English without pressure or embarrassment’.

In the future, Pei-Pei hopes to work in the social justice and human rights space and aims to make grassroot changes. Volunteering has exposed her to many different people and has allowed her to experience many roles and responsibilities. Pei-Pei volunteering allows for the furthering in her field of interest and exposes her to stories and experiences of a wide range of people. We may not be able to change the whole world in one day, but we can make a world of difference in our own communities daily!

As we come into the month of May, let us take special notice of the volunteers in and amongst us. Let’s celebrate their work. Let their stories inspire us to get involved with our communities, using our talents, resources and influence to effect change. To all 6 million volunteers out there, we see you, we recognise you and we appreciate you, so thank you!

– Catherine Madziva