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April Long, National Programs Manager pays tribute to our volunteers

Since joining SHINE as National Programs Manager just over a year ago I’ve had quite a few questions and conversations with people in community. It’s often asked “how’s it going at SHINE”, “what do you enjoy most”, “what are the biggest organisational challenges and organisational strengths” and of course I naturally talk about our people. I am always proud to say that at SHINE I have the privilege of working with the most dedicated and passionate people in my career.  What most people don’t initially realise is that when I say SHINE people I am predominately talking about our dedicated Volunteers. SHINE For Kids has over 330 volunteers and 51 employees. Volunteers are the life blood of our organisation.

I see our SHINE Volunteers when I step off a plane in Townsville, when I enter a prison in Victoria, when I attend a Child-Parent Visiting Day in Canberra or visit one of SHINE’s 11 Child and Family Centres in NSW. They all wear purple shirts, and have a passion and a commitment to making a difference to the lives of children who have a parent in prison.

Our volunteers are committed Elders from Dunghutti country who supervised Australia’s first Koori camp for Aboriginal Children with a parent in prison, they pack chocolates for us in Australia’s biggest prisoner led fundraiser, our volunteers pick children up and transport them to visit their mum or dad in custody, they mentor children through one of the most difficult times in their life and they complete numerous research, evaluation and marketing tasks to ensure our programs are grounded in evidence. They achieve real outcomes for our children and families. They are the heartbeat of our organisation.

There would be no SHINE For Kids without the dedication, commitment and passion of our volunteers who for over 30 years have given up their time to make a world of difference to the most vulnerable people in our communities- the children of prisoners. As a survivor of parental incarceration I know our volunteers are of the greatest significance to the success of the young people they mentor, support and inspire. They contribute to breaking the cycle of intergenerational offending by ensuring children of prisoners are supported to thrive at school and have a positive role model who believes in them. Our volunteers ensure that the voices of children of prisoners are not silenced but amplified.

National Volunteer Week is an opportunity to celebrate the impact of our SHINE volunteers and the power of our volunteers to tackle one of society’s greatest challenges – to support vulnerable families and children adversely impacted by the criminal justice system.

In the last year SHINE For Kids has undergone a time of change, and growth and our volunteers have gone through this change with us. We have grown from 15 prisons nationally to 21 prisons. We have refocused on RISE our educational support program nationally and we have extended our reach in Queensland and Victoria. We could not have achieved this growth and we cannot sustain this growth and impact without our dedicated volunteers. We thank you and we celebrate you.

This National Volunteer Week we shine a light on the people that inspire – recognising and thanking volunteers who lend their time, talent and voice to make a difference in their communities. Whether online, at the office, in a juvenile justice centre, in a school, or one of the 21 prisons nationally; whether with time, a voice, or a wallet – doing good and making a world of difference at SHINE comes in many forms, and we recognise and celebrate you all.

Thank you for the work you do. Thank you for the world of difference you make.