A chance to give and learn

As workplaces and schools were preparing to wind down for the holiday period last year, Baptcare was busying itself with a new initiative. Twenty six university students were accepted to take part in Baptcare’s inaugural Summer Volunteer program at our Camberwell office.

As part of the Summer Volunteer program, students were split into 12 projects that they would undertake from late November, finishing at the end of February this year. There was a wide variety of projects ranging from occupational health and safety to volunteer recruitment.

For many of the volunteers it was their first opportunity to work in an office environment; an opportunity they relished.

“The feeling I get when I finish the project and go home. I have not got that as part of my previous experience,” said Sehan Pushparaja who, along with Norman Wong, worked on the IT for social impact project.

Norman and Sehan have secured an agreement for free internet for asylum seekers living in Baptcare’s Houses of Hope. This will allow Houses of Hope residents to pursue education, search for jobs and complete daily tasks as they wait for their asylum status to be granted.

“I have a sense of achievement that I am contributing to the community somehow and maybe another family is happy because of the work I have done,” said Sehan.

IT for social impact was not the only project Norman and Sehan were working on.

Together with Maria Varela, Norman and Sehan helped Baptcare research and select a new software management system for Baptcare’s volunteers.

Despite finding the project challenging, with English being Maria’s second language, she said she enjoyed the trust and responsibility given to her.

“You come here and people trust you to do your job,” said Maria.

The “embracing” and “diverse” culture at Baptcare has been key to the personal development of our volunteers and has contributed to the success of the projects. Baptcare Volunteer Program Lead, Dominique Elliot said it was important for the volunteers to embrace Baptcare’s value centric culture.

The impact of volunteers has been noted around the office, with staff members blown away by the projects undertaken.

The value of the volunteers is not something lost on Vincent Leung, who was project manager of the Value of a Volunteer project.

In this project Vincent was tasked with assigning “some monetary value to Baptcare’s volunteer efforts to calculate a return on investment”. Vincent estimates that this summer’s volunteers have generated over $100,000 of value to Baptcare.

“I also did a break-even point and changed one of the metrics to the total amount invested in volunteers to the amount of value generated by volunteers,” said Vincent.

In just 26 working days, the efforts of Baptcare’s volunteers has made a real difference. Projects are being implemented to help Baptcare continue to partner with people to create communities where every person is cherished.

“Some of the greatest impacts that the volunteers have had at Baptcare has been their ability to offer fresh ideas”, said Dominique.

“So many people commented to me how fantastic it was to have the students in the office,” said Dominique.

“Hearing from Baptcare staff that they are really excited by the work we are doing, and they don’t think it’s possible for our work to get lost because they are so engaged with it; that was a really valuable experience,” said Michelle Saffin, who worked on a student leadership project to help Baptcare with recognising primary and secondary students’ volunteering efforts.

The success of the Summer Volunteer program has encouraged Baptcare to undertake a winter intake for volunteers this year, as we plan to expand our volunteer pool from just under 700 to 1000 by the end of this year.

Details and dates for this will be confirmed towards the end of the university semester.