We’re saying ‘Thanks a Million’ for National Volunteer Week (NVW) and highlighting the awesome efforts of 6 Feature Volunteers.
We take 10 minutes for 10 questions with 18 year old Madi Fairlie (Bronze Awardee from Strathcona BGGS) about her passion for volunteering and standout experiences in a Cambodian orphanage.
How did you get involved in The Duke of Ed?
My school strongly encourages everyone to try out the Duke of Ed. In Year 7 and 8, I completed the Compass Award program, and loved it! So as soon as I could sign up for Duke of Ed, I knew I would. The school is really supportive of the Duke of Ed participants, and we even went on some hikes together!
What inspired you to be part of it?
The thing that stood out the most to me about Duke of Ed, was the opportunity to take part in new activities. Hearing past participant’s stories inspired me to take part because they made me eager to set and achieve my own goals, just like they had.
What it is about volunteering that resonates with you?
I’ve volunteered since Year 7 at places like schools, kindergartens, aged care, hospital children’s wards, Salvation Army café, an orphanage, for WSPA and for Rotary. There’s just something about helping people and putting a smile to their faces through doing things that are so simple to you, but make all the difference, that just makes me feel great! Whenever I volunteer I become a lot happier, more energised and spend the whole day in the greatest mood.
Describe what you’ve done to volunteer and how you got involved.
For most of the places I volunteered at, I simply called or emailed them and asked if I could volunteer for a certain amount of time. Some were organised through school or connections through family, but you’ll find that most places would be thrilled to have you volunteer if you asked. I love working with all age groups, but one of the greatest parts for me is helping younger kids. I have helped teach at schools and kindergartens and play games with the kids.
In 2011, I went to Vietnam and Cambodia on a World Challenge Expedition with a group from my school. As part of this, we volunteered at an orphanage in Cambodia. This was the most incredible experience of my life.
There are never enough words to describe how much I treasure my short time at this orphanage. We helped concrete the ground of a hut for a new bedroom for the older boys, who all previously shared one room together. We also taught English to the older kids. I taught them how to sing “Home among the gumtrees” with actions and to dance to Hannah Montana’s “Hoedown Throwdown”! It surprised me how quickly they learnt and how excited they became.
But more than that, what surprised me is how they taught me a lot more than I could ever teach them. They taught me to treasure the little things in life, and to make every moment count. I’m forever grateful for my time with those gorgeous kids.
What impact does your volunteering have?
The smallest amount of volunteering makes the greatest difference. For Cambodia, we raised a lot of money at a school fundraiser to take over and buy school supplies and rice for the orphanage that had just had their rice fields flooded. We provided these kids with food to eat. We helped construct a hut so they had more shelter at night. It was not even that difficult for us, but it made a world of difference for them!
How does it make you feel?
It is the most incredible feeling in the world, just to see them smile and know that I did something to make a difference in their lives.
Has volunteering changed you as a person?
Most definitely! It makes me treasure those things I have and not take anything for granted. I’ve learnt to make the most of every moment because each second of happiness is a privilege, and every minute of sadness is a minute of happiness gone that you’ll never get back.
Do you have any standout volunteer moments, unique things or surprises you’ve encountered whilst volunteering?
Volunteering in Cambodia is by far my highlight. The laughter from the children surprised me the most. How they could have so little but be the happiest children in the world. It’s really something everyone can learn from. I received a letter from two of the kids, one boy and girl, both asking if I would be their sister! It was the cutest letter I’ve ever read, and I still read over the letters now to relive those memories. These kids changed my life.
If you could say ‘Thanks a Million’ to anyone, who would you say it to and why?
I’d say thanks a million to 1 – my family, for everything they have given me and for all the experiences they’ve let me have. 2 – to World Challenge, for running the expedition to Cambodia which changed my life, and 3 – to my school, for providing me with a fantastic education, and encouraging me to take part in Duke of Ed.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
That everyone should volunteer, it’s the most rewarding thing you can do! I’m so glad for all the places I’ve been able to volunteer at and know that this is just the beginning of my time as a volunteer. I can’t wait to go back to Cambodia and see those wonderful kids again!