Being a volunteer involves a high level of commitment, but it is thanks to those who can commit that some of the most beautiful causes in the world become possible. Volunteers are usually firm believers in a cause; they are trustworthy, professional and kind-hearted.
SSI Volunteer June Simpson, and fellow volunteer Samaneh, at Community Kitchen.
This description fits June Simpson, one of SSI’s most multifaceted volunteers, like a glove. She took on volunteering two years after retiring from her career as a school counsellor because she wanted to continue doing something useful. When Mrs Simpson saw an article in The Sydney Morning Herald about SSI setting up a soccer team for people seeking asylum, it prompted her to sign up as an SSI volunteer.
“I thought, what a great idea — giving asylum seekers a sense of purpose and inclusion,” she said. “I found the initiative very different from everything I had seen before in other organisations. It actually felt like SSI went beyond the rest.”
That was in February 2014, and since then Mrs Simpson has continued to increase her contribution to SSI. Volunteering one day a week, Mrs Simpson has supported Community Kitchen events, helped with administration tasks, and taken part in Welcome to Sydney sessions and Playtime events for refugee mothers and their children.
“That went well because I’m used to working with children,” she said.
Mrs Simpson’s background as a school counsellor has no doubt fuelled her interest in the weekly two-hour Playgroup initiative established by SSI, which aims to provide opportunities for meaningful social interaction to women and children from refugee backgrounds, or who are seeking asylum.
“Playtime is great, because besides being entertaining for children, it brings the group of mothers together and it creates a space where they can build their social connections, and eventually, friendships in their new country,” Mrs Simpson Said.
The benefits to the children at Playtime became visible to Mrs Simpson after a few sessions.
“When you deal with these kids, you can tell they have been through a lot, but this program is very helpful and positive for them,” Mrs Simpson said. “The first day they arrive, you can see they are very anxious and clinging onto their mothers. But after a few days, they are already running around having fun, oblivious to the rest of the world.”
“Playtime makes them feel safer and more confident overall.”
Mrs Simpson’s commitment to volunteering is renewed by every new experience, which reminds her that she is indeed doing something significant and that serves a purpose.
“It’s been enormously interesting, meeting people from different cultures,” she said. “And I’m very impressed with the professionalism of SSI and the commitment of staff members. The gratitude of the clients is huge; they recognise SSI is here for them. I find it very heartening, SSI offers hope and makes a difference.”
To find out more about SSI volunteer opportunities, visit the SSI website.