We spoke with Sophie about her role as a volunteer with Kookaburra Kids.
Tell us about the group you volunteer for and your role.
The group I volunteer for is called Kookaburra Kids. They are an organisation that support children aged 8-18, living in families affected by mental illness.
The program organises camps and activity days for children. The camps and activity days all have chat groups which provide opportunities for the children to learn about mental illness; how it affects families; develop coping and resilience skills; and learn about support agencies.
Kookaburra Kids also provides a Defence Program which is delivered to serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force Families. As a volunteer it is my pleasure to to work with the children in the program.
As a volunteer I facilitate chat groups; participate in activity days and activities on camp; a support and an ear to listen; and lastly a facilitator of FUN!
How did you start volunteering?
I have always loved to volunteer. I was originally looking to volunteer in a school, when my mum came home from work and told me about Kookaburra Kids. The organisation sounded like something I would enjoy to do, especially as both my parents are ex-serving Australian Army with my mum still working as a psychologist for the Army. I applied to volunteer and I guess the rest is history, I never looked back.
Why do you Volunteer?
I volunteer for a number of reasons. The main influence is wanting to give back to my community. I have a passion working with children and if I can help improve the lives of young Australians, why wouldn’t I? Secondly, it is so rewarding.
The feeling of sending the children home at the end of camps is something I cannot explain and no, it isn’t just because they are gone. The friendships and confidence the children develop over camp is amazing.
Some children come to camp nervous, lack of confidence and often struggle with peer relationships in schools, camp is a safe place for kids just to be kids and it shows as by the end of camp the same kids are loud, confident, happy and most importantly have a whole list of numbers from their new friends.
Additionally, I get to be a big kid, I get to join in all the activities including high rope courses, rock climbing, laser tag and trampolining.
What does your group mean to you?
Kookaburra Kids means a lot to me. As mentioned above, the rewarding nature of volunteering for such a worthy organisation is amazing.
I have developed friendships through volunteering for the organisation.
I have learnt many valuable skills from interacting with young children affected by mental illness which I have transferred to my teaching career. Most of all the joy it brings to the children and volunteers, Kookaburra Kids is a supportive organisation for not only children but their volunteers.
Is there an event or activity that you are particularly proud of because of how it connected with our Defence Community?
An event that I am proud of is a Defence Camp I attended. There was a young girl in my cabin who was very apprehensive and shy when arriving to camp. The girl took away so much from camp. The girl opened up about her struggles making friends at school. Over the weekend, the girl’s persona completely changed, she went from being a shy and quiet girl to being loud and constantly laughing with her new friends from camp. Not to mention the knowledge she took away from chat group about mental illness and how she was going to apply the knowledge to her current situation.
Is there something you would like to say to others who are thinking of volunteering?
I would just like to say to others who are thinking of volunteering for any organisation, JUST DO IT. It is the most rewarding and fun experience I have had and cannot recommend volunteering any higher.