Student gets more than she gives with Curtin Volunteers!
Master of Speech Pathology student, Nimi Goh, combines a demanding study load with her role as the Communications Officer for the student-driven organisation, Curtin Volunteers! (CV!), where she has connected with her community, travelled to remote locations, gained experience in literacy and numeracy tutoring and planted rather a lot of trees! CV! is currently working on its largest community project, John Curtin Weekend 2016, where volunteers work with locals, over six weekends, on various projects at metropolitan and regional sites.
CV! was established in 1994 with the singular aim of providing opportunities for international students from the United States to volunteer, and become more involved in university and community life. The organisation, currently staffed by two-and-a-half people, has grown over the past 22 years and, this semester, boasts 70 student project and program leaders, 21 ongoing programs, more than 15 one off projects, monthly Remote and Indigenous trips and 42 John Curtin Weekend (JCW) sites in Western Australia, Malaysia and, for the first time this year, Singapore.
In her work with CV!, Nimi Goh has gained valuable personal and professional experience in literacy and numeracy tutoring at Clontarf Aboriginal College, working with remote Indigenous communities and tree planting at Lake Claremont. She has now joined the CV! Leadership team as their Communications Officer. She found the time to answer these questions in between study and volunteering commitments.
What are you studying, and why did you choose this course?
I am currently in my final year of the Master of Speech Pathology course. I chose to do this course as I came to the realization that I wanted to work in an area that was meaningful to me. I love how speech pathology allows me to work with different people while aiming to, hopefully, make a positive difference in their lives.
Why did you choose to join CV!, and how long have you been with the organisation?
I first joined CV! because I wanted to contribute to the community, gain experiences, meet more people, and travel to places. My first CV! involvement was as part of the Remote and Indigenous Program to Wiluna mid last year. The experience I gained there was so amazing that I have continued my participation with the organization.
What kind of projects have you worked on with CV!?
I have participated in multiple programs and projects with CV!, and have enjoyed every single one of them. I have participated in Clontarf Numeracy Buddies and Clontarf Literacy Buddies, both which are programs that run weekly where volunteers help tutor students at the Clontarf Aboriginal College in mathematics and literacy skills. For one-off projects that come up throughout the semester, I have had the luxury of participating in the Remote and Indigenous trip to Wiluna last July, the Williams Gateway Expo, and the Inter-University Tree Planting at Lake Claremont. I am also a part of the CV! Leadership team this year as Communications Officer, and a site leader for a recent John Curtin Weekend project at Parkerville. CV! has definitely enriched my life with a myriad of experiences.
What are the benefits of volunteering – personal and professional?
Volunteering makes people happy. I feel that whenever I stop and look around me during a program or project, I find both the volunteers and the people they work with having a good time and enjoying the moment. Of course, there may be a few ‘difficult’ moments but, essentially, I find that volunteering connects people and things do get better. So I think on a personal level, I gain happiness and satisfaction from giving. Volunteering also gives me a sense of community, connection, and growth. In some ways, I think it makes me a better person (I hope). On a professional level, I think it helps me learn to connect with people from all walks of life, a skill that is important for a future career as a speech pathologist. It also exposes me to possible areas that I could consider for work in the future.
What would you say to others who are considering volunteering?
I would say go ahead and do it. Before CV!, I found that despite the desire to volunteer, life frequently got in the way or it just seemed so intimidating to start, but I found that once I took the first plunge, everything just sort of fell into place and I somehow managed. Furthermore, it feels great. Curtin is amazing that it has an organization like CV! to connect students to volunteering, so I’d say take advantage of it as it does take out some of the daunting parts of making that first move.
What has been the most unexpected benefit of volunteering?
I’m not sure if this sounds weird, but I found that volunteering keeps me feeling a little bit younger and more refreshed. I find that I’m frequently meeting so many young people, and I mean both the actual volunteers and the people involved in any particular program or project, that I find their energy and dedication infectious. As I can be a very serious person, it reminds me sometimes to not take life too seriously.
Has your course work informed your volunteer work in any way, or vice versa?
Yes, I think it works both ways. My first experience from the CV! Remote and Indigenous trip to Wiluna, and my subsequent volunteering experiences at Clontarf Aboriginal College sort of triggered a professional interest in me to work with Aboriginal people. I believe some of the things that I learnt from the people I worked with in these programs and projects influenced the way I worked during my paediatric placement in Jigalong, a remote community in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Vice versa, the things that I’ve learnt in my coursework have allowed me to work better with the children that I meet throughout volunteering, such as when I participated in the Clontarf Literacy Program.
What is your most memorable volunteering experience?
I think it is hard for me to find one moment in time that I would say was most memorable for me as I enjoy and appreciate many moments in all the volunteering I’ve done. It may seem small but sometimes, when doing something together with a child, a teenager, a volunteer, or someone in the community, even in silence, is memorable for me as it signifies a sense of comfort and connection between people, and I remember many moments like this with different people.