Val’s Volunteer Garden Adventure


Val Horsby’s journey as a volunteer began in Albany in 2009, when she joined the School Volunteer Program (now EdConnect) at Yakamia Primary School. With a desire to make a difference to young people she could get to know, she began mentoring three young boys who were facing extraordinary challenges.

These boys had faced adversity that are hard to think about – one self-harmed, another hid under tables, and one was hidden away in a cupboard at home. Val, undeterred, started her mentoring journey by teaching them to write their names, an achievement that she hoped would make them feel proud.

In the following years, Val’s commitment never wavered. She spent countless sessions reading, practicing the alphabet, and nurturing these boys’ confidence. Over the course of three years, she embodied what it means to be a mentor – she was a positive role model providing stability and support in their lives. One of the boys moved to Albany Primary School due to changes at home, and Val followed, allowing their sessions to continue uninterrupted.

These experiences were transformative for Val, opening her eyes to the silent struggles so many children face. Moved by her encounters, she resolved to keep volunteering, to be a guiding presence these children desperately needed. A simple act like buying a toothbrush and toothpaste for a child who lacked basic necessities, illustrates Val’s commitment and the need for caring volunteers in schools.

Val’s journey wasn’t confined to one school. When she relocated to Perth, she carried her dedication to Woodbridge Primary School, where her own children had attended years earlier. There, she encountered more challenges, beginning with a 12-year-old student with a penchant for throwing chairs at teachers. But Val persisted, engaging the student in a virtual holiday project that not only improved her literacy but also encouraged her to provide a presentation to the class.

In 2017, Val’s journey took her to Dalyellup Primary School in Bunbury. There, her focus shifted towards supporting struggling students within the classroom. Val wanted to assist more than one student at a time and address the need she could see. Her influence widened as she resurrected the school’s neglected garden, turning it into a space of learning, hard work and reward. With the guidance of her class teacher, Val introduced activities that not only developed practical skills but also empowered the students to think independently.

The garden has thrived, becoming a haven for bees and students alike. It is a testament to Val’s nurturing spirit, a place where ANZAC poppies and rosemary commemorate sacrifice and sunflowers celebrate lost friends. Val’s impact extended beyond the classroom, capturing the beauty of the garden through photography and engaging the students in hands-on cooking activities using the harvest.

At the end of the school year, Val compiles the stories, jokes, poems, and cartoons contributed by her students into a book that captures the fun they have had together.

Amidst all her accomplishments, Val remains humble and cherishes the small things – the children’s laughter, their fondness for calling her “Mrs. Hornsby,” and their smiling faces when she arrives each week.

Val’s journey echoes the values of EdConnect Australia – connecting generations to enrich lives. Her story illustrates the impact one school volunteer can make, and the belief a freely given act of kindness can blossom into an entire garden of possibilities.

EdConnect Australia trains and supports volunteers to work in local schools, providing a safety net for young people who might otherwise struggle to realise their potential – in school and life. It is Australia’s only intergenerational volunteering charity which operates within both primary and secondary schools.

For more information on our volunteering program click here, email or call 1800 668 550.