“We wanted to do something different, something with a purpose, something with meaning and something that could benefit others.”

While some rural communities lack the same resources and facilities as metro areas, the opportunities for volunteers to step up are endless. Ivana Blekic is a passionate advocate for supporting rural communities and her efforts have spread far and wide.

With a busy schedule, Ivana leads the way as the current president of the Sunraysia Leo Club, the Junior Vice president for the Mildura Show Society and rural ambassador for the Rostrum Mildura. On top of all this, Ivana is juggling a Bachelor of Accounting/Law via distance education, volunteers at a not-for-profit legal service and is currently completing her Duke of Ed Gold Award while still helping out her parents on the family farm. At such a young age, the 22 year old is kicking goals and paving the way for stronger communities.

“The Sunraysia Leo Club is a group of young community minded individuals aged between 16 and 30 who are focused on making a contribution to their community and encouraging other young people to become involved in the community. Leo clubs are an official activity of Lions Clubs International which encourages young men and women to serve others in their community and around the world. Some of our activities include Op Shop fashion parades, annual trivia nights and a family pool party.”

LEO stands for Leadership, Experience and Opportunity and the club encourages its members to take on a project of their own and run it themselves from start to finish. “We wanted to do something different, something with a purpose, something with meaning and something that could benefit others.”

For the Adventurous Journey section of her Duke of Ed Award, Ivana organised a tractor trek with the Sunraysia Leo Club called ‘Journey 4 Life’ in aid of raising awareness and funds for the Australian Childhood Research Cancer Foundation. “From the 14th-22nd of August last year, we drove two tractors supported by two vehicles from Mildura to Bendigo via Red Cliffs, Hattah, Manangatang, Nyah, Swan Hill, Kerang, Cohuna, Gunbower, Echuca, Rochester and Elmore. Then back again to Mildura up the Calder Highway via Inglewood, Wedderburn, Charlton, Wycheproof, Sea Lake, Speed, Tempy, Ouyen, Hattah and Red Cliffs.”

“From a crazy idea, to actually sitting down and planning the tractor journey was exciting because we weren’t sure that we could actually start or even complete the journey. There were times when things did not go as planned, as we learnt to overcome these obstacles. Throughout the whole process we never gave up.”

“As this was a non-road activity, we had to obtain Vic Roads’ approval. This meant we had to provide a risk assessment, traffic management plan, communication plan, public liability insurance, correct vehicle signage and maps. We had to also notify the police stations of our intention.”

Over the nine days, Ivana and her crew travelled over 1,200km and despite only travelling at 39 km/h they made it till the end.

“It was a fantastic experience. The amount of support we had along the way was unbelievable and it was great to meet so many new people and see how small country towns came together to support a great foundation. The journey also coincided with the ‘Challenge Camp’ held in Cohuna, which was run by the Lions and Leos. ‘Challenge Camp’ is camp for children with cancer. This camp reinforced the reason why we did the journey and it was great to see the children running and playing, having fun, and enjoying a time where they could forget about their illness and treatments.”

“This journey was about more than raising funds and awareness of the foundation. It was an experience, an experience where we got to meet people who are passionate about their clubs and communities.”

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