Celebrating National Volunteer Week
06 Jun 2023
During National Volunteer Week, Thorne Harbour Health honoured the countless individuals who volunteer their time, energy and skills to our LGBTIQ+ communities and people living with HIV (PLHIV).
The dedication and commitment of these volunteers has been the driving force behind our mission to improve the health and wellbeing of our communities. Volunteers celebrated their longstanding involvement with Thorne Harbour Health over the course of its 40-year history, and they took the opportunity to reflect on their first experiences with the organisation as well as where they are now in their volunteering journey.
Arjun says that volunteering allowed him the opportunity to meet diverse people from different age groups and backgrounds – many of whom had been through difficult times.
“Through understanding their struggles better, I have been able to make sense of my own,” he says.
Now Arjun plays a vital role in supporting LGBTIQ+ communities and PLHIV, including creating workshops for older people and providing online support during the COVID-19 pandemic. This year National Volunteer Week coincided with International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT). Arjun reflected on how volunteering helped inform his understanding of the discrimination that the people he supports face.
Every time I facilitate a workshop, I realise that each individual person's journey and experiences are unique, and there is something so wonderful about building solidarity through sharing so much common ground yet appreciating the uniqueness of individual journeys.
Arjun’s experience is just one of many. Tan encountered Thorne Harbour when he attended a Young & Gay (now known as Kinetic) workshop. He credits the workshop with helping him broaden his horizons and teaching him about the issues PLHIV face.
It feels good to give. My hope is that the little time I give helps make a difference in someone else’s life.
Tan’s selfless sentiment is a large part of why volunteers are vital to Thorne Harbour. From his own positive experience at Young & Gay, Tan has gone on to support the Thursday meal service at the Positive Living Centre, event catering, and tech support. A common theme across our volunteers is how they bring their diverse skills and experience to the communities they serve.
Long-term volunteers Sue and Dom both started volunteering for Thorne Harbour in 1993 providing vital legal support, including power of attorney and migration law advice, through HALC. After 30 years of providing these services, Sue looks back and says, “I found it to be a rewarding and positive experience.” Dom says, “It was a very rewarding experience.”
Dom also enjoyed the social aspect of volunteering for the legal centre and says, “Clients could attend the legal service after dinner and volunteers came to eat dinner there also.”
“Legal volunteers also made permanent friendships with other volunteers and Victorian AIDS Council and Positive Living Centre staff,” Dom added.
30 years of volunteering is a massive achievement and Dom and Sue have been enriching the legal services that Thorne Harbour offers that entire time. Dom and Sue have continued to dedicate their time and skills and have attended most legal advice evenings since the program’s beginning.
National Volunteer Week is a time to reflect on the extraordinary contributions of volunteers who make Thorne Harbour Health the vibrant organisation that it is today. Their tireless efforts are a significant part of the improved outcomes we now see for LGBTIQ+ health and for PLHIV.
As Arjun says, “There have been so many changes in the community! I can’t even begin to describe them.”
“I feel privileged to know the histories and struggles of so many people, many of whom have worked to make this place and community safer and better for others,” he added.
Arjun, Tan, Sue and Dom are just some of the countless volunteers that Thorne Harbour Health honoured during National Volunteer Week.