Name: Rebecca Hughes
Where do you volunteer with Vinnies and for which programs?
I currently volunteer with Vinnies Youth. Youth runs a number of camp programs including kids, teens and our vocational youth pathway, and at the moment I’m really passionate about volunteering on kids’ camps. I also sit on our State Youth and Young Adult Advisory Committee with a focus on facilitating fundraising for our programs.
How long have you been with Vinnies?
My involvement with Vinnies started when I was about eight years old in 2008. My school had a Mini Vinnies conference that did work with the local parish conference. When I was old enough, I started volunteering on camps. That was in 2016. I’ve been with Vinnies for about 10 years now.
What is your favorite thing about being a Vinnies volunteer?
I love the community aspect of Vinnies, and the fact that there are so many people that want to come together from all different backgrounds to serve those in our community who are struggling. We all need a hand to help us out sometimes and I love that Vinnies allows people to come together and do just that; I think that’s really special about being a Vinnies volunteer.
Your favorite story of success or inspiration?
As a volunteer in Youth, the majority of my work is with children. It’s hard to pinpoint a specific moment, but something that continues to give me hope and affirms the work that we do is when a child says ‘thank you’. There have been a few times when kids have turned around at the end of a camp and said ‘thank you’, plain and genuine. While those two words are simple, they affirm that we’ve given the kids what they need from us—whether it was a few days of fun or a safe forum in which to talk and be heard. It’s always a show of the success of camps when they come back to the next camp. It allows us to see the amazing growth of the kids from camp to camp. My inspiration to continue doing the works of the Society is in the proof that the work we do makes an impact.
What does your typical day look like?
As a camp volunteer, we normally get up at around 6.30am and wake the kids at 7am. The day is filled with activities which the Vinnies Youth volunteers organise and run for the kids. They include anything from treasure hunts, crazy science experiments, water fights or arts and craft. It is a lot of fun, but it can be extremely challenging.
It can be very confronting, especially when we’re assisting children who have experienced trauma early on in their lives. You really have to give the kids 110 per cent of yourself. They deserve to have your attention and to be heard even though it can be challenging. Our job is to be there for them. It can be hard when you have a roomful of kids, but one of the beautiful things about camp is the fact that the kids have the opportunity to be listened to. The day then wraps up with a debrief for the leaders to share highlights and challenges from the day. Once we’ve done everything we need to do in preparation for the next day, we get to bed at around midnight to get a good night’s sleep to start again the next day!
What has volunteering at Vinnies taught you?
I think being a Vinnies volunteer has taught me how to really listen. To be able to truly connect with someone, take in their concerns, let them know that they are heard and that I can support them if they would like that.
What does being a Vincentian mean to you?
Being a Vincentian is about putting my faith into action, by giving my heart, skills and time to those we assist. It is really about showing my love for humanity, for my community, and for others. Being a Vincentian is understanding that service can go a long way.
How does the Year of Youth align with what you do with Vinnies?
As a young person of faith, I know the capabilities of youth. I’m constantly amazed by my fellow volunteers and the absolute skill and dedication they display, often giving up weeks away from their normal lives every year. The Year of Youth really drills home that Youth has to go out, connect and serve others to be a vital part of society. It’s great that the Year of Youth is drawing a focus to that.