Travel Log 12: “Service” by Erin Schirra Gold Coast, Australia

While on a quick tram ride across the Gold Coast, I found myself conversing with a large group of adults that hopped on to the tram at the following stop. They were all dressed in formal wear, and I asked them where they had come from. They told me that they had just finished attending a large charity event that they had been planning for months, and that all of the proceeds went to an organization. With peaked curiosity, I continued asking about their event and group, only to discover that they raised money for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Australia. I practically jumped out of my seat with excitement, as my sorority’s philanthropy is RMH, and we also spend all year planning events and raising money for it. The Ronald McDonald House is a worldwide organization that allows for families with sick children to stay together at all times. Physical houses are set up next to major hospitals, and allow for the families of any hospitalized child to reside, eat, and spend time in the house for free. Massive fundraising and hands on volunteering all allow for its 43 year-long presence in the USA, and 36 year-long presence in Australia. Although the mission of each RMH slightly varies depending on the region, they all aim to help “seriously ill children and their families” (

After my conversation with the philanthropy-driven side of the Aussie RMHs, and a guided direction on where to find the closest house, I picked up my laptop and began to search. I was able to call and speak to the director of operations at the RMH one city over, but much to my dismay, one day volunteers were not accepted. In order to apply, a six month commitment was required, which was a similar case to all of the other volunteer opportunities I reached out to in my area. Regardless of all of this, I was able to learn more about the volunteering at RMHC of Australia in my conversation with the director. He organizes volunteers across multiple RMH locations, and there are opportunities such as cleaning up the house, doing yard work, cooking, hosting tea, and assisting in orientation. The guidelines for volunteering are very strict, and include face-to-face interviews, health checks, six-step training sessions, and as mentioned before, a time commitment. The process is extensive and the opportunities are great in number, and Jonathan Crockett has done a phenomenal job in his organization of it all.

I think that volunteering allows us to belong to a cause that is bigger than ourselves. Participating in any form of service allows us to partake in that shared community, and while living in another country, this sense of belonging is both comforting and beneficial. Additionally, as cliché as it may sounds, service allows us to give back to the community that has done so much to help us grow. By inserting ourselves into our abroad communities, we utilize the resources provided by local business, environments, and varied organizations, and it is our duty to help give back before we leave. A key point that I will take away is the dual sided nature and international camaraderie of RMHs across the world. Having spoken to the philanthropy and hands-on-volunteering sides of the Australian RMHs reminded me how important each measure is to the overall success. After posing for the picture below with my sorority’s hand sign, I posted it to show all of my sisters at home that these women appreciated what we do, and vice versa. Seeing the reactions to this support on both ends from across the world was something that I will not forget. This experience made me more cognizant of the idea of service in all locations, and that if we work hard enough, there is a way for us to find some form, whether, small or large, to give back to our community.


“Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve.” -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

These women are great, as they serve through organizational efforts to raise massive amounts of money for RMH. We, as abroad students, can too be great when we give back through service.


***As a side note to this post, I would like to acknowledge that original efforts for planned volunteering were set to be carried out at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. This establishment hosts an array of native Australian animals such as koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, and a variety of birds. It works towards conservation, rehabilitation, and preservation. Because of weather implications from a category 5 cyclone, conflicts in times, and long volunteer processing measures, I was only able to sign up for a date in late April. Luckily, as rewarding as the interview was, I will still be able to have the hands on volunteer experience.


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