My life as an undercover volunteer
Secret Millionaire – Channel Nine 9.30pm 29 Oct.
Episode Four: Features Naomi Simson
[Not all of the places I visit become part of the television program – more than 40hours of footage reduced to an hour long program. I meet amazing volunteers every where I go – their stories touch, move and inspire me. My diary includes much that simply cannot be shown on air.]
I go from the older citizens (Mission Possible) to a youth support centre known as ‘On the Edge’. Sammy was my host, showing me around the yellow weatherboard centre, which supports 1800 people from the community. She explains the programs they run including how they feed kids in schools every morning using donated bread, milk and eggs and volunteers. It is also a drop in centre, a place for young people to visit, receive support and socialize.
I try to put Sammy at ease but she is really quite nervous with the TV crew’s presence. She herself was one of the youths some years using the services before she went to TAFE. The centre does a great job – the kids in the area would not know what to do if the centre was not there to support them.
I meet Bob a volunteer, and when I ask him ‘so tell me Bob’s story’ I inadvertently bring tears to his eyes as he tells me of the death of one of his daughters, and how volunteering with young people gives him the opportunity to support others in a way he wishes his daughter had been supported. It is a truly touching tale of loss and generosity.
I ask questions about the counseling service they offer – I’m unclear about how they go about it, what program they use – is there on going treatment for clients, or referrals to other health professionals. I’m curious to know whether they are paid, how it all hangs together? I remember from the work I did for Kids Helpline that it is imperitive for consistency of service that councilors are paid. It is important to have skilled, trained and consistent, professionals working with kids.
I don’t get a clear answer to the ‘Do you get paid?’ question. I think if this is what people do full time then they need to be paid, how can they support others if they cannot feed themselves. I didn’t get any clear sense of how the program worked financially, nor what the outcome of the work they do is. I asked the question ‘if this centre wasn’t here what would the community be like?”
My questions come thick and fast, I cannot help it. I’m trying to work out if my money would make a significant difference to the centre. The ‘Bosses’ are referred to, but I don’t get to meet them and they tell me that many of the volunteers come from the Uniting Church. On the Edge is most appreciative of and is well supported by the church.
I enjoyed their energy and commitment – and it is amazing to see how young people are so supported by the local community.
I return for another night of solitude (and noise). I have much to think about. I like the grass roots, community nature of the organizations I have visited so far. But likewise, I want to see that what I do will add unbelievable scale and make a fundamental difference. This does not have to be to a large group, but it must be something that they could not do on their own.
I’m not as keen to write about today’s experiences. It is now close to 10pm yet I have been on my own in the ‘green neon hilton’ since 6.00 as ‘Urban Hostage’. I made my diary cam as soon as I came back. I sit and talk about what is going on in my head after the day. I fry an egg for dinner, clean up the kitchen slowly. Today’s experience has profoundly affected me. I want to think about what I can do to support the people I have met today. I know I will meet very many worthy causes, but I need to apply my basic business instincts to all that I meet.