True Stories: Cecily Michaels – Value from being a volunteer!

As a person who has volunteered since my school days I find my position with TRI Community Exchange very rewarding as it is an incredible organisation to work for, under the inspirational guidance and direction of Jane Uff and my brilliant colleagues, who are all dedicated, talented and inspiring people. It is an honour to be a part of such a team.Cecily-Michaels_Tri-Community_edited

My role is to inspire people to volunteer for Home and Community Care (HACC) services for the frail aged and people with a disability, so they can remain in their homes. The other part of my role is to support these services in recruiting, training, managing and retaining volunteers.

TRI makes many worthy contributions to the sector through their affordable and competent computer and IT skills training, communityNet news, information and resource website for the community sector, and in its work with multicultural communities in the Nepean, Hawksbury and Blue Mountains regions.

I also volunteer as a Board Member of the Springwood Neighbourhood Centre Cooperative and also as a Project Manager for a prevention project in the occupied Palestinian Territories, against gender based violence, particularly targeting children and incest. I have just returned from a 3 week monitoring trip and am humbled by the incredible work this small partner organisation is undertaking with only volunteer staff.

My background in overseas aid began as a volunteer on the Thai-Cambodian border in a refugee camp for 180,000 Cambodians who’d survived Pol Pot. After 2 years of community development work and teaching music I returned to Australia and undertook a Masters in Development and Community Organisation.

Later, I also did a MA in Public Health, where I volunteered to write my research report for the NSW Refugee Health Service on the oral health needs of Hazara refugees who had recently arrived in Australia. From 1995 to 2008 I worked for a humanitarian aid agency in Sydney and was responsible for the Middle East and Mekong region.

It was working in the refugee camps in Lebanon for Palestinians that I first got involved in Home and Community Care (HACC)-like services. Our partner organisation, the Women’s Humanitarian Organisation in the Burj el-Barajneh refugee camp, undertook a variety of HACC-like services, including case management, nursing, social support and provision of transportation for frail elderly people and people with disabilities, as well as their carers.

What I value most from being a volunteer, and inspiring others to volunteer, is the feeling of satisfaction that I get from doing something useful and worthwhile. The connections I make with amazing people also continue to inspire me. I get a sense of belonging from being a part of a community and a sense of purpose from being involved in something that cannot be gained in any other way, except as a volunteer.

Cecily Michaels

Volunteer Coordinator

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