VCAL students have an appetite for volunteering By Loretta Lloyd

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I pulled up at The Rye Community House to find our 15 VCAL students, most of whom have never worked or volunteered in any capacity before, standing in the cold, dressed immaculately and appropriately to food safety standards. It was moving, as their teacher, to see them all ready and waiting as asked of them.

For eight weeks the Chisholm Mornington Peninsula campus VCAL students teamed up with a group of amazing volunteers from the Peninsula community. They created soup recipes, sourced local ‘seconds’ and donated produce, learnt about food and nutrition, and worked with a volunteer team. They took the soup to a local school to serve. This school has identified that a large percentage of children are experiencing absenteeism due to parents not having lunch to send to school or are unable to focus or learn due to not getting the nutrition they need. 

This program was only able to run with a dedicated volunteer team and they were ecstatic to have it run its first time thanks to our VCAL students offering their help. On our first visit serving at the school, one of the children exclaimed while getting his second cup of broccoli soup:  “Yum! I never get to have hot food.” The students affected by the experience were determined to find bread donations to go with the soup, an initiative entirely created by the VCAL students and much appreciated by the volunteers and the school.

It is having a most positive, holistic impact on my VCAL group, who are currently doing a research assignment on local volunteer organisations. They are developing invaluable skills for their own use in a kitchen, such as nutrition, recipe planning, food safety and hygiene.  They are obtaining a work ethic and work skills, having to run a full work day, uniforms, signing in and out, strict breaks etc. They are now, three weeks in, experiencing the “feel good” confidence that comes with community work and giving to others.

There has been a lot of discussion and feedback from them regarding looking outside of their own lives and challenges, how they perceive the community they live in and how the community they live in perceives them.  They have also developed a great empathy for the children and awareness of some of the issues going on in their community.

Tilly McClaren: “I thought the soup kitchen would be really boring … I feel really good at the end of the day when we have fed the primary kids. I leave with a smile.”

Brucie Renee Turner: “Being involved makes me feel really good knowing I am helping others.”

Jake Chant: “The vibe is great and everyone is super keen to meet and serve the kids. I think it’s great what volunteers are doing.”