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Simple ways you can start helping others this year

by Sarah MacDiarmid

Here at Open Colleges, recent events across the world have made us think more than ever about how lucky we are to live in relative safety with a roof over our heads, food in our fridges and friends and family to support us. But what about those who are less fortunate?

Helping others in need doesn’t require a whole lot of time, effort or even money. A gesture that seems so small to us could make a huge difference in the life of someone else. I had a chat with some of the generous staff around the Open Colleges offices to see how they make a difference. Could you follow their lead and start helping others this year?

Donate what you can

One of the easiest ways you can make a difference to the people in need in your own community and across the globe, is by donating to a charity that means something to you. Whether it’s a one-off or regular donation, your support can help supply anything from food and medical kits to research and legal aid.

Making a regular contribution of just $5 a month can help make a real impact. Some of the charities we at Open Colleges donate to include, Randwick Children’s Hospital, UNICEF’s children’s immunisation programme, Cancer Council, Save the Children, RSPCA, Heart Foundation and Amnesty International.

Many of us also give food or cash to homeless people that we see on our commute. It can be easy to forget that, were our situations and support networks slightly different, we could be in a similar position. Buying a Big Issue magazine from your local vendor is also great way to help homeless, marginalised or disadvantaged people to stay on-track.

throw-kindness-around-like-confetti

More than money

Donations don’t have to come in monetary form – donate old clothes and toys to charity shops, drop off tinned food or blankets to a local charity drive or give essential items directly to people in need – any donation however big or small is worthwhile and appreciated.

In December, Open Colleges Administration Assistant, Gabi, encouraged all staff to donate toys, books and gifts for children of all ages for the Barnardos Gifts for Kids initiative. They sat under our office Christmas tree and were collected by a Barnardos representative. The gifts not only gave some Christmas cheer to children in care or who are waiting for adoption – but it also offered them a little hope.

Pass on your passion

If you have a particular interest or passion, why not give up some time to pass that passion onto others? Your enthusiasm will be infectious and you could help other people to build their skills or improve their lives along the way.

For the love of words

Scott is a Course Quality Manager here at OC. He passes on his love of words by volunteering for an hour each week at the Sydney Story Factory – a creative writing centre for young people from a range of backgrounds in Redfern, Sydney. The volunteer tutors help the youngsters to write stories of all kinds, which they publish in as many ways as they can. He also organises regular collections of books for the Blue House Project.

Have a friendly dog at home? They can help others too! Learning Designer, Neroli has been involved with a charity called Story Dogs since its inception. “We take our (well behaved) dogs into schools to work with kids who do not like reading,” she says. The charity aims to make reading fun for children so that they become confident lifelong readers.

Sports fans

From managing kids’ rugby union teams to coaching soccer, netball and water polo, several of us at Open Colleges give up some of our spare time to volunteer in a sports-related capacity. Getting involved with a local team is a great way to give back to your community while also keeping yourself, and others, fit and healthy.

Animal rights

Vet Nursing Program Manager, Sally, volunteers her time to help animals. She works with a charity called Inner City Strays whose volunteers care for stray cat colonies in inner Sydney and Moss Vale. Sally will be delivering workshops in association with ICS in responsible pet ownership to residents around the Sydney area.

Anne Frank

Give your time

Whether it’s half an hour a week or every Sunday morning, giving your time to help others really can make a difference, both in your own life and in the lives of others. See how some of these OC-ers give their time.

Nadine, OC Enrolment Consultant, works with Youth Off The Streets to mentor to a young person who is trying to overcome the considerable difficulties they’ve faced in life. Her current mentee has received a scholarship to study so Nadine’s role is to ensure she has someone to talk to and to check in on her to keep her motivated.

Every Saturday morning, Open Colleges’ Group Reporting Manager, Nasim volunteers for the SAIL (Sudanese Australian Integrated Learning) program at her local community centre where she tutors primary school-age Sudanese refugees in English. According to Nasim, “They can be behind their peers so it’s a chance for them to learn, and even get help with their homework. It’s very rewarding.”

As a Christian volunteer, Manager of Quality and Compliance, Paul, visits people in his local area, shares a thought from the Bible and invites them to see whether the practical wisdom can be applied in their lives. “It makes me feel happy to give to others my time and energy so they can enjoy a happier life,” he says.

Learning Designer, Julie was a Scout leader for over 20 years – “teaching kids to believe in themselves, earn awards and become our future leaders” – and is now involved with a youth mental health charity which is raising funds by holding a Central Coast Comic Convention. She is volunteering her time to create a website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profile for the event, and help out with the marketing, functionality and ticketing.

It makes me feel happy to give to others my time and energy so they can enjoy a happier life.

Save a life

When thinking of how we can help others, donating blood and learning CPR is often forgotten about – but what better way is there to help someone than saving or prolonging their life?

Open Colleges Enrolment Consultant, Kathryn, donates blood every 12 weeks. “Each donation saves 3 lives,” she says. “It hardly takes any time and the people at Red Cross are lovely.”

The EHCS Division here at OC work hard to keep us all healthy. They arrange regular events that offer blood pressure checks and fitness and nutrition advice, and have even started their own walking club. If you’re interested in getting the CPR skills you need to be able to save someone’s life, follow in the footsteps of Vanessa, the division’s Program Manager for Nursing and Dental courses. She attended an event hosted by Take Heart Australia which offered CPR training absolutely free!

If you don’t want to wait until the next Take Heart Australia Day, the Red Cross or St John Ambulance offer quality first aid training all year round.

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Get others involved

Planning an event in your workplace, neighbourhood or with a group of friends takes a little effort but is a fantastic way to raise money and awareness for a worthy cause while having fun at the same time!

Open Colleges Children’s Services Program Manager, Andrea has arranged a number of events across the company, including Get Pink’d, an event related to the Cancer Council’s Pink Ribbon Day in which all money raised goes towards support, research and prevention of women’s cancers. She organised a tea party, raffle and some fun incentives to get everyone involved in the day.

Organising an event can not only help to raise money and awareness for a specific cause, but can also help to lift the spirits of your workmates, as well as those in need.

Sharleen, Beauty Program Manager at Open Colleges, and her daughter spend a little time brightening up the days of the older people in their community. “My 14 year old daughter is a singer, and every school holidays I take her to the senior citizens’ hospital and she puts on a concert to liven up their day. Most of these older people don’t go out often so this just brings them some joy for a couple of hours,” she says.

Why not take part in, or set up, an event that people can sponsor you for? Run a 10K, join in with a charity bike ride or take it to the next level like OC’s Digital Design Team Leader, Lauren. Having lost a friend to Leukaemia, she’s shaving her head and collecting sponsorship for the Leukaemia Foundation’s World’s Greatest Shave campaign. Now that’s what we call dedication to the cause! You can sponsor her here.

We hope this has inspired you to have a think about what you can do to make a difference to the lives of other people in the coming year. Remember, no act of kindness is too big or too small. Have a fantastic year!

Images: Bianca Cash, The Pool, Lifehack. Copyright statement.

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Want to give back?

Open Colleges has a range of courses that could help you get started in a career helping others. From aged care to youth work and community services, we can help you make a difference. Browse our courses here.

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