By Catherine Chan
When working as a volunteer, many of us can agree we quite commonly fall into the trap of being ‘burnt out’. The feelings of hitting a brick wall because initiatives have fallen through, have not been heard, seem impossible to achieve or simply because there is a lack of help. All this makes us believe that working towards the vision of the organisation is at a stand-still. The trip that we went on really gave me the motivation and reconnected me back to my values, goals and vision of the mission. In a rural town like Dubbo, it is a place where you can live life knowing about the discrepancies between socio-economic groups out there but you can choose to ignore them. There were eight of us who went on the Dubbo Trip. Andrew, Suganthi, Gaelan, Jess, Polly, Joe Karl, Ferdy and I had varying exposures and experiences with Gawad Kalinga Australia (GKA) and our purpose was to share what GK is a about as requested by Riverbank Frank. In a sense, I found myself in return, gaining a deeper understanding of the different pockets of communities in Dubbo.
Some say people are connected one way or another. Six degrees of separation they call it. Our source of contact and connection to Dubbo was through Frank, an elder in the Aboriginal Community. He shared a lot and taught us all a bit about the land. The creation of the circle that people sat in had no beginning and has no end. Or the existence of the Quandong peach tree and the emu, both of whom rely on each other to survive. The tree can only regenerate once the emu has digested the fruit and vice versa, the fruit is situated only high enough for the emu to reach. Similar to the connections people have in the Dubbo community.
The Dubbo community has so many initiatives to be proud of. Take the Community Kitchen, for example, that occurs every Friday night, it aims to help those who may be struggling to feed themselves. It turns out to be quite a social gathering as well.
The Apollo House at the Apollo Estate, is a place to provide opportunities for children from disadvantaged families to learn new skills, gain confidence and the value of respect. When talking to one of the volunteers there, she reports how there is such a difference compared to 18 months ago. We were very lucky to meet the directing crew behind the not for profit organisation, Desert Pea Media, who’s main work thrives on bringing “people of all cultures together in Australia through art and story-telling”. How they do this is through rap music videos sung by the voices of the community. Their lyrics are deep and speak of the core issues that govern their people.
It was so inspiring when I heard about the Men’s Shed through reading the book “A Shed Load of Stories: from the Dubbo Community Men’s Shed” and a great honour to finally meet some of the men who shared their personal journeys in the book. The Men’s Shed in Dubbo builds on respect for one another, generosity and positivity. Every Tuesday, during the school holidays, the men go up to Apollo House to fix pushbikes for the children. Apparently the bindies there puncture tyres. Kevin, a member of the Men’s Shed voiced his idea of sharing his skills in the last years of his life, to give what he can to his community and help kids who are struggling in school. One of his initiatives is to teach high school students how to fix lawnmowers, taps or bikes. This is aimed to give students some practical skills when they are having trouble at school.
Despite all the programs out there, complex social issues continue to burden the community. However, there is hope, hope to achieve a united community of love, care, sharing & trust. The Men’s Shed, Apollo House & the Community Kitchen are only the start of limitless possibilities in bringing people together for a common cause.