“Never see a need without doing something about it”

Meet Andrew, Tania, Norm and Meg – four volunteers who have supported Youth Off The Streets for over two decades.

Last year, over 280 volunteers gave their time, knowledge and expertise to Youth Off The Streets. Their generous support helps us make a positive difference in the lives of young people experiencing homelessness and disadvantage.  

Just in time for National Volunteer Week, we’re celebrating the generous contributions of four long-time volunteers. Andrew, Tania, Norm and Meg have supported Youth Off The Streets for a combined total of 79 years!  

Find out what inspires them to give back to the community through volunteering. 

Andrew Woods – Food Van volunteer

Andrew began volunteering with the Food Van in 1997. After returning from an around-the-world trip, he was feeling energetic and up for anything. 

In the years since, Andrew says with a laugh, “Food Van became a habit that I forgot to quit.” 

“It’s the volunteers and the people on the street that make the Food Van good. I also learn useful skills from Food Van – like cooking and preparing food, which I’m still remarkably deficient at!” 

During his shifts, Andrew and his teammates assist a wide range of people. 

“Many are sleeping rough. Some have disabilities or medical problems; others have experienced racism, sexism and poverty. We also serve ex-prisoners and people who are affected by drugs and alcohol.” 

“Our job doesn’t need us to judge any of that. We simply give out free food and hot drinks to anyone who asks.” 

Nicola Amys volunteers with Youth Off the Streets

“When I arrive home late at night after Food Van, I’m usually pretty tired yet slightly exhilarated.” 

“I always have a sense of appreciating what it means to have a safe place to sleep and a job to go to the next day,” he says. 

Vincent Blake is a volunteer with Youth Off the Streets

Tania Aitchison – Food Van volunteer

When Tania first volunteered with Youth Off The Streets twenty years ago, she wanted to make a positive difference to the community. 

Now, through her work with the Food Van, Tania feels as though she makes that difference every month. 

“It is something I am extremely proud to be associated with,” Tania says. 

“I enjoy that people like the food we make and other things we take out, like jackets, beanies and sleeping bags.” 

While Tania finds honouring her commitment to the Food Van team and its clients “cathartic”, she also enjoys the social aspects of volunteer work. 

“We foster a sense of fun and collaboration between us and the people we serve,” Tania explains. 

“We deliberately play loud music when we are in the park; we sing and dance and laugh.” 

“The team I work with are awesome.” 

Norm Nolan – Street Walk and iDrive volunteer, National Scholarship Program mentor

Norm has worn many hats since he began volunteering with Youth Off The Streets. 

Since 2011, Norm has mentored National Scholarship Program recipients and provided driving lessons as part of the iDrive scheme.  

He has also participated in Street Walk, which is run by Program Manager Gary Lockhart and and offers after-hours support to at-risk young people in the CBD. 

As Norm explains, “I volunteer with Youth Off The Streets because I believe strongly in the philosophy expressed by Father Chris Riley: ‘There is no such thing as a bad kid – there are just some kids who’ve been dealt a bad set of life cards.’” 

“If we can help just one person to escape from disadvantage, then we’ve succeeded.” 

Norm enjoys being part of a team who are committed to a united, worthy cause.  

Susie Bernard is a volunteer with Youth Off the Streets

He also finds fulfillment from the realisation that he has helped young people grow into responsible adults – despite the hardships they might have faced.  

“For me, what sets Youth Off The Streets apart is the ability to convert a cycle of disadvantage into a ‘Circle of Courage’ and opportunity – and you see the results.” 

“Many times, I’ve been walking the streets with Gary and young people have come up to proudly tell him what they’ve achieved in life and thank him for the initial help he provided.” 

Vincent Blake is a volunteer with Youth Off the Streets

Meg Sissian – Food Van volunteer

Meg is guided by Saint Mary Mackillop’s personal motto: “Never see a need without doing something about it.” 

Accordingly, she has volunteered with the Food Van once a month since 2002. 

“I find each shift very rewarding in lots of different ways,” Meg says. 

“I enjoy the gratitude from those we feed and the conversations we have. I hope I’m making a little difference to their lives – whether it’s a coffee, a meal, a blanket or just a smile.” 

Meg says that being involved with Youth Off The Streets is “an absolute pleasure”. 

 “As a charity, Youth Off The Streets is very organised, relaxed and appreciative of their volunteers. It also invites input from volunteers in lots of ways – including consultation on the Food Van menu.” 

Meg also finds that the like-mindedness of fellow volunteers contributes to her enjoyment of Food Van. 

“The nights are late, the conversations we overhear can be confronting and the sights we see are not for everyone – but the emotional rewards are worth it.” 

Click here to find out more about volunteering opportunities with Youth Off The Streets. 

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