Hunter Volunteer Centre

News and Events

Volunteering Overseas (Part II)

"He wrote his 'a's backwards and I taught him the proper way." According to Annabel, it was rewarding just teaching children little words that they could actually remember. However, Annabel does not believe the group of volunteers made that 'changing the world.'

"I don't think we made that 'changing the world' impact, like a lot of people want to make when they go overseas. At the school we would have the children put on a play, we taught them a song and little things that they could remember. We made that year a little bit more fun for them. So, I think if you can just help a few people it is already good."

When Ashley was asked if she considered the difference she was making to people's lives while she was on her placement, she answered "Not then". However, she mentioned one achievement that touched her. There was a teacher who offered Ashley the chance to teach a girl with autism how to swim. "I said okay and then I got into the pool and I said 'come in', but the girl didn't". Ashley explained that the teacher told her she would have to get the girl into the water. "So, it took me about six months to get her in the water".

Ashley also talked about the time she worked with a student who had cerebral palsy and could not put both legs on the ground or stand up and hold on. Ashley says she was moved when she noticed the student had made progress. "I cried. I cried and she looked at me and she knew that she did something great, which was also a goal for her. And then I cried and she kind of hugged me, which was really sweet". When asked if she feels proud today when she looks back, she says she does, adding "it was the best decision."

Homesickness and being back to Australia

"It was such a shock. It didn't hit me for months, but one day I was at a restaurant and I went to the deck and then I thought 'oh my God, I'm so far away.' I don't know what it was, it was like a light switch clicked on that I was literally on the other side of the world." This was when Ashley realised she was homesick, but she overcame it. "Like I said, I learnt things that no one else learnt. I've done different things and had a social life." In the end, she says it was difficult coming back to Australia.

"Leaving there was worse than leaving Australia. I was in tears. Twelve months, it is a long time. On my last day at school, everyone said goodbye and the kids were coming up and saying 'I am really glad I've got to meet you this year, thank you for helping me'. I cried."

Annabel said she was d excited about going to India. "Actually, the first month, I think I didn't like it and then in three or four weeks it kind of switched to me 'oh, this is good, I like this'". She also described how it was being back to Australia after the placement.

"My flight was delayed out of Delhi. It was delayed 14 hours and then I missed my connecting flight in Hong Kong - another six hours. I hadn't slept or showered in two days and I remember getting into Sydney and Mum and Dad were there at a hotel and they had a shower and I think I ran the whole of the hot water out. And then you go to the kitchen and there is food in the fridge or you can just go to the shop and there is stuff all there together."

Annabel would like to go back to India and volunteer once again. "In my degree, in third year, there's a choice to go overseas, I'm thinking of going to India. I'm studying Medicine in Armidale, so I would love to go there and do something health related".

"Do it while you can"

When asked for any final considerations or hints for those interested in volunteering overseas, Ashley thought people should just do it while they can. "I've listened to some people say 'you're young, you can do it' and some other people say 'I should have done that when I was your age'. Even now I keep thinking of moving back there. It's like four months or a year, it's not a huge part of your life but it does change your life forever".