The initial question I am often asked when people find out about my role with the National Council is, ‘why do you do it?’. When I turn the question and explore why this is their first reaction, the common response is that they don’t understand what I would get out of volunteering by being so far removed from ground-level work and working directly with people who are vulnerable and suffering.
Starting my Vincentian journey in high school, I became president of the conference and then moved to youth programs and a university conference. From here, I began to be exposed to the larger network of charity that we are so fortunate to be a part of and moved into the role of state youth representative in WA. In June, I accepted the role of National Vice President to the National Council. So, when I am asked the question of why I do the work I do, instead of purely volunteering at the ground level, I think of the words stated above by Rosalie Rendu.
I am rewarded by being able to serve those in need in different ways and aspire, as Sister Rendu suggested, to a more complete and longer-lasting benefit of our companions. Long-term change comes from all areas and I believe that all Vincentians make an impact no matter the work.
The next reaction after establishing why I do what many of us do as Vincentians are, ‘you’re so young’. But youth is not a burden. I have seen first-hand capable Vincentians of all ages and backgrounds who make an impact on every area of the organisation. In fact, the most successful areas of the organisation run when we do operate as One Society. Where our companions are our priority and all members, volunteers, and staff, work in unity to achieve our mission.
The National Council in its current form is driven to make a transparent One Society. One that does not differentiate age, race, gender, or any other silo. A Society that truly engulfs both Australia and the world in a network of charity. We are in such a fortunate position as an organisation to make real systemic change on every level. Our members are on the ground serving those who are suffering, yet, are also able to advocate on behalf of and with our companions on a federal level. We are the drivers of change in Australia and through the support of all Vincentians, continue to make a difference in the lives of thousands of people every day.
Patrick Wallis is a Vice President of the St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Australia.