Interchange Volunteer Stories
Lesley’s story - Interchange Host Program
We have been hosting our current Interchange child for about a year.
We chose the Interchange program because it was a great opportunity to make a change in a child’s life without a huge time commitment. We love that she loves coming to visit us and that she considers my daughter her special friend.
I love that she considers our home a welcoming place to be, where she feels safe and happy. I also love that we have become great friends with her family.
Interchange has made us appreciate our own lives and family more when you realize the struggles that some families face when they have a child with a disability.
Our Interchange child comes to us usually once a fortnight, but the day can be very flexible if we have other things on or if her family have other plans.
The activities we do with our host child can vary from just playing at our house to swimming, movies, a day at the beach, fair or park - really she just fits into our family with whatever we are doing.
Often when we are out people think our Interchange child is our daughter - my daughter always gets a thrill out of that as she doesn’t have her own sister.
We love being a part of the Interchange program and get as much from the program as we give to it.
Sharon’s story – Interchange Host Program
I've always wanted to "give something back" and fostering children had always been my choice. But when you're a single person working fulltime, I was never sure that I'd be available whenever I'd be called upon and so was worried about my ability to actually assist at all.
I read in the local paper about Gateways and what was involved and I liked the idea of it. So I went along to one of the information evenings and it sounded like everything I was hoping for. Involvement with kids with disabilities, assisting them and their family and actually making a difference. But importantly, I could commit to a timeframe that suited both the child's family and myself. Which is exactly what's occurred. We agreed to one weekend per month and that's exactly what we've done. By agreeing to a particular weekend each month (the 4th), we're all able to plan in advance and I think this has made it a very successful partnership.
Robert has become a part of my family and I'm a part of his. We both look forward to each and every weekend we spend together, as does his family. I love seeing things from his perspective and the recent training on the autism spectrum has opened my eyes even more. Whenever the Wiggles are in town, Robert lets me know so we can go together!
The support and constant contact with the Interchange team is a big part of the package too. I haven't just been "left to it", I have support just a phone call away. And feeling appreciated is great too, because we're all human and like to know that the difference we think we're making is real and appreciated.
"I'd recommend the Interchange program to anyone who has some time to give."
Recreation Volunteer Stories
Darren’s story – Recreation Program Volunteer
Four years ago, Darren Burt was uncertain about his future when Ford in Geelong was threatening to close down, putting his job at risk. He knew then he had to start thinking about what he wanted to do with his life and where he wanted to work. This brought him to his first community involvement volunteering with Gateways Support Services, an organisation he continues with to this day, even while he maintain his fulltime position with Ford as well as his other responsibilities.
At that time Darren had no experience with children with disabilities. But his determination and dedication has enabled him - and Gateways Support Services - to help numerous of children with disabilities to be part of the Geelong local community and give much needed respite for families.
For the past four years, Darren has contributed many volunteer hours and commitment that some other people would take a lifetime to fulfill. Darren’s volunteer work over these years has been extensive and each role has led to more challenging and demanding situations. On top of all this community work, Darren continues to juggle the demands of tertiary education. He has already gained Certificate IV in Disability as well as working full time.
Darren sees his voluntary work as a process and is proud to be involved in the idea of making differences in the lives of children with disabilities. Darren believes it is not only important but also fulfilling for children with disabilities to go home at the end of the day with a smile on their faces and their parents having the much needed rest and support.
“From my experience working as a Volunteer with Gateways Support Services, I have gone from being a loner and keeping to myself to more an outgoing person and developing people skills. I have learnt to say ‘I can’ instead of ‘I can’t!’ and I have found volunteering experience incredibly rewarding. I encourage anyone to do something positive for themselves and others!”
Nikki’s story - Recreation Program Volunteer
I initially became a volunteer for Gateways at least 9 months ago. At first I was a bit hesitant and apprehensive due to it being something that I have never done before, but let me reassure you, the journey that I have embarked upon at Gateways has been a worthwhile one that will never be forgotten!
Being a volunteer for Gateways not only provides an excellent learning experience for the children/adults that have a disability, but also for you as the volunteer. You learn that these young adults have many admirable qualities about themselves, such as, being brave, a risk taker, enthusiastic towards life- all they need is someone that will listen and to respond actively. This is where you as a volunteer are needed immensely.
The programs that are offered by Gateways have the potential to develop and extend 21st century skills, such as, thinking creatively, collaborating and interaction, and taking risks. These skills are essential to prepare individuals for the future. It is through Gateways that these skills are recognised and therefore provides many opportunities for these skills to be further developed.
The young adults that have a disability are invited to go out of their comfort zone within the programs that Gateways offers. In saying this, you are also invited to go out of your comfort zone when you volunteer for particular activities. For example, I have not been ten-pin bowling in many years - it was something that I thought I out grew. However, it was by signing up to volunteer for ten-pin bowing that I not only got out of my comfort zone, but I absolutely had a fantastic time. To this day, I love ten-pin bowling due to the positive experience gained from volunteering at that particular event.
If you think you may like to be a part of working with children or young adults that have a disability, or perhaps you just want to work with children in general, Gateways is such a beneficial program to volunteer for. The experiences that you gain will last a lifetime and the experiences that they gain from you will last a lifetime as well.
If you are considering being a volunteer for Gateways, which I strongly encourage you to do- remember, you are not alone in this journey you’re about to embark upon - you have the children/adults from Gateways walking alongside you!