Volunteering and travelling go hand in hand. The urge to help is thus a vital part of this. To volunteer means taking those small steps to help make a bigger difference in this world. Volunteering in my own travels, mostly my local travels here in Melbourne, started way before the shift to become vegan emerged within me and have taken different forms over the years.
Volunteering by Helping out in the Sacred Heart Mission Dining Hall
The desire to volunteer my time to a worthy cause started in not-so-vegan circumstances. Back in the early 2000’s, I spent one day a week travelling to Melbourne’s beachside suburb of St Kilda to help out. Volunteering in the Sacred Heart Mission Dining Hall meant cutting up ingredients like fruit and vegetables, serving up lunch to homeless and disadvantaged locals, doing the dishes and general clean-up after the meal service. Sacred Heart Mission was founded in 1982 with the mission to ‘build people’s capacity to participate more fully in community life’ while addressing causes of disadvantage and social exclusion. Access to basic necessities including food, clothing, housing and healthcare are thus keys to his mission. The opportunity to volunteer did make me feel as if I was being helpful in the world, yet an experience that always left me feeling I was making a difference in others’ lives during one day and helping them feel they were included, wanted and appreciated in this world. Oftentimes, each lunch I served would be the only meal these people would see in a given day. Small steps lead to a bigger difference through sharing a meal.
Volunteering by Teaching English to Migrants for AMES Australia
Not long after I became vegan, I wanted to put my English skills to constructive use. AMES Australia has been going in Victoria (my home-state) for over 60 years helping ‘new and recently arrived refugees and migrants to settle’ in everyday life in Australia. Their vision: “Full participation for all in a cohesive and diverse society.” English language skills are an essential part of this process. All it took was for me to participate in a short course at night before I was assigned students to tutor.
When I was ready to venture out in my own local community, I was assigned a Burmese Christian woman – roughly my age – who was married with two girls, working full-time and running a household. She was a permanent Australian resident working towards the ultimate goal of passing her Australian Citizenship test. Due to religious unrest, her family fled from Burma (Myanmar) to a refugee camp before eventually seeking asylum in Australia. Australian citizenship would mean ultimate safety and stability in a new life in Australia and her daughters would automatically be granted citizenship (as they were under 18 years old). This also meant being granted simple things Aussies may take for granted – getting a Medicare card so that they could access medical care, stable and permanent employment, education, and pursue religion of their choosing without persecution. Some of these simple things are not accessible if you’re just a permanent resident in Australia. It was my job as a volunteer English tutor to help my student achieve her goal.
After months of one-on-one lessons, one hour per week, my student was finally ready to sit her test.
I can never forget the day when I arrived at her home; the day she sat her test. Not only did she pass, she was granted her citizenship along with her two daughters. I couldn’t help but start crying while hugging them all. Small steps lead to a bigger difference through education.
Volunteering my Yoga Skills to Raise Money for Animals Australia
Earlier this year, I decided to complete 108 sun salutes while raising money for Animals Australia. Why 108 sun salutes? Yoga is a cherished part of my life, and has been the key practice that has helped me regain my health after years of battling symptoms of pre-diagnosed Coeliac Disease. The number 108 is an auspicious number in some religious beliefs, and a number used to keep the mind clear and centred for such a mantra practice. Completing so many sun salutes over about two hours (in my own home) meant that I could achieve something which I perceived as unattainable. What motivated me was raising money for Animals Australia. Animals Australia is ‘Australia’s foremost animal protection organisation’ that advocates for a kinder world. My goal was to raise $200, and I achieved raising $170 in donations. It felt thrilling when I achieved my goal of completing 108 sun salutes while raising money to help an animal cause. Small steps lead to a bigger difference through self-motivation and achieving a personal goal.
We all have the capacity to travel the vegan road, and incorporate volunteering into our lives. It’s just a matter of identifying the valuables skills within us and putting these skills into the service of others. This is such an easy way to create those small steps that lead to that bigger difference in our world.
What ways have you made the small steps to make a bigger difference in our world while you’re travelling? In what ways can you volunteer more in your travels? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below.