Barbara has volunteered with EdConnect Australia since 2014 at Hollywood Primary School, Balga Senior High School and at Freshwater Bay PS, where she has been since August 2021 – this is her story.

“Being a mentor for EdConnect has given me such purpose, especially since my retirement from nursing, spanning 50 years. Before finding EdConnect, I was searching for structure and to feel connected.

During the past eight years, I’ve volunteered in three different schools, each very different with its own challenges. I’ve worked in the poorest WA areas and some of the wealthiest; my days have been varied but rewarding. In challenging roles, I’ve mentored children/ youth who have needed morale support, lacking in confidence and many behind in their literacy and numeracy skills. Some of the children I’ve encountered have had difficulties at home: loss of parents, either through death, divorce, or addictions and students with learning “roadblocks,” background difficulties, playground or cyberbullying and English language challenges.

It amazes me the various ways in which a volunteer can contribute. Despite a few of the tragic life stories I’ve listened to from some troubled students, I’ve seen that sometimes change is possible! The immense satisfaction I feel when I’ve helped someone in distress and seen the student grow in resilience and respect for the positive people around them is almost indescribable.

At one of my progressive schools, I was invited to ‘Harmony Day,’ where students and staff dress in their National Clothes for the celebration. I learned that 90 different cultures were attending this particular High School; the school section I was placed to help in was where 65% of students were First People.

It is such a privilege to be in a place where it is possible to give help. If only in a small way, with no apparent expectations. I have found that it is lovely to be amongst children. Even simple, everyday problems that seem huge to them, I’ve found that over time things can improve, as can attending school too. A few of the students I have met feel it is easier to share their problems with a trusted visitor who is not attached to the school like a teacher or parent. With patience and good humour, many stresses can be eased.

I feel honoured to participate in school activities and have continuing support from the staff at EdConnect, who are at the end of the phone and will join me for a cuppa if I need a chat. Being invited to school functions has been excellent, celebrating the children’s success. Parent/school morning teas, certificate-giving ceremonies and performances are heartwarming, and being part of a school community feels lovely.

Thank you, EdConnect, for giving me a purpose and training me to be of value to the schools I have volunteered at. I love the yearly EdConnect get-together and morning teas – the quizzes and games are great fun!

I’m very grateful to be a volunteer with EdConnect and hope to continue for as long as possible.”