In America, volunteer opportunities are readily accessible and strongly encouraged to partake in. When looking for community service organizations in Australia, it was much more difficult to find than I had imagined. Every organization either required a long-term commitment (6+ months) or required a lengthy application process in order to do service. Australia sees volunteer work as helping the community, therefore is deserving of a cash reward. This was surprising to discover, considering back home volunteer work is just something we do for free to donate our time and help. Due to the way Australia has their community service, it was extremely difficult to find an organization to volunteer for. After searching multiple websites, I finally came across an organization called BeachCare. This organization is affiliated with Griffith University, which is another university here on the Gold Coast. BeachCare “… aims to provide an opportunity for community members to participate in caring for their local coastal environments… ” (BeachCare). They do this through removing weeds and litter and replacing the trash with plants that all the volunteers personally place into the sand.
BeachCare goes up and down the Gold Coast of Australia cleaning up sand dunes to ensure healthy and clean beaches, which they consider their backyard. Being on the Gold Coast, the beach is a major part of everyone’s every day life. This part of Australia is known for its beaches, so it is important to them that it is in the best condition possible. Volunteering my time while abroad made me feel a lot more accomplished than I thought I would for just cleaning up a beach. I could see in all the other volunteers’ eager faces when we started and the proud smiles they sported at the end how much this meant to them. Volunteering my time allowed me to integrate myself more in the Global Community. I found it interesting that not a single person asked where I was from nor asked why I was in Australia. For once while being here, I felt like I was one of them. I was no longer just this 21 year old studying in Australia who sight sees at every chance she got. I was now apart of this community and was able to contribute towards something that Australians pride themselves on. I felt like I was paying my dues and saying thank you for being able to live here for the semester. Volunteering is such an important aspect of every community because it allows us to give back to others, especially those who really need it. Some people cannot afford to hire help; it is up to the community to willingly do so on their own time. This is why to have a successful global community, community service is so important because it brings everyone together to achieve a common goal. If the community comes together, then progress can be made.
During my time volunteering, the other members and I planted 70 removed 0.5kg of weeds and collected 2.3kg of litter. This service experience really just reminded me to always be thankful for the opportunities that I have. Many people see studying abroad as a vacation for four months, but it can be so much more than that if people get themselves involved with the community in which they live. Now I have a completely unique experience to look back on that the other people I am abroad with do not have.
The following quote accurately depicts my community service experience: “The first step in this journey is to venture outside our comfort zones and get involved directly and personally in the lives of others, especially those occupying the margins of society…to create respectful and mutually beneficial relationships.” (Slimbach) This experience has given me the ability to form a connection with people in my surrounding neighborhoods by actively working together to better the community.
BeachCare. “BeachCare.” Griffith University. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.