National Volunteer Week (18 May –24 May) celebrates volunteers both big and small for their contributions to the community as even the smallest of people can have a significant impact through their volunteering roles.
Volunteers play an important role every day in Australia with, according to Volunteers Australia, a third (31 percent) of Australians volunteering their time and contributing 128 hours of their time each year to the community.
Through volunteering, people are able to change their communities which is why the 2020 Volunteer Week theme is “Changing Communities. Changing Lives”.
A national charity is born
Keeley’s Cause shows that from small acts of volunteering, national charities that change lives and communities are born.
Keeley Johnson, who lives with autism, was 13 when in June 2017 she created Keeley’s Cause to help children with autism and intellectual disabilities across the country receive iPads to help support their education.
Keeley’s Cause is run entirely through volunteers, including Keeley herself and Sharon Murphy who is both the Director and Keeley’s mum.
Ms Murphy says, “[There is] no current funding or NDIS support, other than COVID-19, for kids with autism or intellectual disabilities to receive iPads for their learning.
“Many kids are being pushed through the system and are unable to get an education adapted to their individual needs.”
Keeley was one of those kids being pushed through the system and having experienced it first hand, it was the injustice at how she was treated and that another child may go through the same, that inspired her daughter, says Ms Murphy.
The journey for Keeley and Keeley’s Cause started with a small act and has lead to Keeley herself raising $70,000 for Keeley’s Cause through doing sausage sizzles, volunteering events and donations.
“She decided that she would start the Cause and find two kids that had what she had and give them an iPad. From there Ballan Lions Club took it on as a project. From there it became a district project, who then took it on to also assist Keeley’s Cause and from there it has just grown.
“[At] the commencement of 2019, we applied for charity status, and we became a national charity.”
Volunteering and Keeley’s Cause have had a massive impact on Keeley says, Ms Murphy.
“Being able to assist others has given Keeley more confidence in herself that she can not only make a difference to her own life but to somebody else’s and give them the opportunity and the tools to fulfil their dreams.
“Keely focuses on the ability rather than the disability because if we focus on the disability, we stay in that 'dis' of everything.
“As Keeley says ‘for all the things I can’t do there is the ability that they can’. Keeley functions at a grade 3-4 level and she has an IQ of 62. So academically Keeley is no good, but ability-wise she has just created an organisation that has gone on to be a national charity.“
Ms Murphy is incredibly proud of what her daughter has achieved and says that this is just the beginning.
“To see her now growing, getting confident and have the amount of empathy that she has for others despite her own disability is quite amazing, and I’m very proud as a parent.
“In the last 12 months, Keeley has received four awards. She’s been nominated for a few, became a semi-finalist [for others]. She became a finalist for the Human Rights Commission Medal last year. She won the Ballarat Youth Major Award for Keeley’s Cause and volunteering... She has [also] just recently won the Aspect Australia David Foster Award for 2020.”
Volunteering should be something that everyone should participate in, says Ms Murphy, who also volunteers her time not just at Keeley’s Cause but to her community.
“I think volunteering is a really big positive thing for kids, or anybody, to do because knowing that you’ve helped someone less fortunate than you is the biggest boost in volunteering that you can ever receive. It’s the biggest thanks without anyone saying thank you. You know you’ve made a difference to that person’s life.
“I think volunteering is a good self-esteem boost, and it enlightens a lot for yourself to help somebody in their darkest times. “
Wave your appreciation in 2020
Although National Volunteer Week celebrations look a little different, this year virtual events across Australia are still being held to thank volunteers, like those at Keeley’s Cause.
Volunteering Australia has also started a social media campaign calling on Australians to ‘wave your appreciation’ for volunteers by sharing a photo of themselves waving their hand of thanks using the hashtags #NVW2020 and #waveforvolunteers.
Chief Executive Officer of Volunteering Australia, Adrienne Picone says this extraordinarily challenging year has shone a spotlight on the power of the unpaid workforce in Australia.
“It is more important than ever that we thank and recognise volunteers this National Volunteer Week.”
To find out more about National Volunteer Week, head to the Volunteering Australia website.
Who are you thanking this National Volunteer Week? Tell us in the comments below or send an email to [email protected].