Thousands of volunteers are ‘saving lives’ with UnitingCare Queensland
By Erin Semmler
UnitingCare Queensland is a not-for-profit community and healthcare organisation that provides services to more than 400,000 people across Queensland and the Northern Territory.
The organisation runs the Lifeline services in Queensland and provides services in aged care, disability support, child and family crisis.
Volunteer manager Anastasia Magriplis said without their volunteers, UnitingCare would be unable to provide the highest level of care to all of the people in need of their services.
“The volunteers raise the money to run the services that are literally saving lives,” Ms Magriplis said.
“Volunteers provide that one-on-one special care and attention, someone to listen to you, someone to sit with you, someone to hold your hand when you’re facing some of life’s most challenging times.
“We have about 120 Lifeline shops around Queensland which are largely staffed by volunteers.
“70 percent of our workforce on the Lifeline crisis line are volunteers.”
Ms Magriplis said UnitingCare’s mission is to reach out to people who need help, to give them a voice and speak on their behalf.
“Our mission is to… support them to live life in all its fullness and whatever that means for them,” she said.
“We have over 9,000 people who volunteer for us each year and we have around 17,000 employees as well.
“We’re one of the largest employers in Queensland.”
UnitingCare has taken on more than 60 Griffith Community Internship volunteers for a range of roles from Lifeline Bookfest event assistants to general support workers.
All volunteers, including students who volunteer through the Community Internship program, receive plenty of support from UnitingCare.
“With the Community Internship program, we’ll post project ideas on the portal which students can then access when they’re looking to find their placement opportunity,” she said.
“Every intern or volunteer that we take is assigned to a supervisor who orientates them initially to the organisation, the context and the work.
“We have an extremely friendly, engaging and welcoming team because most groups in UnitingCare are used to working with volunteers.”
Ms Magriplis said that many students from the Community Internship program continue to volunteer after completing their required 50 hours.
“They’ve stayed on because they’ve made great relationships, enjoyed the work, we’ve enjoyed having them and have received a lot out of their participation,” she said.
“Really strong bonds are forged and really big differences are made and people like that fortunately like to stay on and help out.
“Volunteers and interns tend to do work that we wouldn’t do if they didn’t come along and offer, which means that we can offer so much more care and support to the people that need us as an organisation.”
Ms Magriplis said the Community Internship can be exactly what a student needs to take a step back and see the bigger picture.
“Doing a course like this can really just reset your perspective and your expectations,” she said.
“You can realise just what a difference you can make just being you and just knowing what you know and being open to learning.
“I encourage people to have a crack at it and see what they think.”
In terms of future long-term employment, community work is highly regarded in the eyes of employers.
“When we’re looking at recruiting employees in the organisation, volunteer work and community participation is looked upon very favourably,” Ms Magriplis said.
“If you can demonstrate that you’ve donated your time and skills to a cause that you care about and applied your learning in that context, then employers will look at that very favourably.
“We have in fact employed lots of people who’ve volunteered for us.”
Ms Magriplis said the Community Internship is also a great way for organisations to improve their volunteer system.
“I really think the internship program is a great opportunity for organisations to learn how to get the most out of everyone who’s participating,” she said.
“The students can let us know if the experience isn’t what they thought, or if they think things could be improved.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Erin Semmler is a 20-year-old aspiring journalist who particularly enjoys working with print and online media.
“I grew up in Yeppoon, a small coastal town located in Central Queensland. My nationality is Filipino and Australian. Travelling is a major passion of mine; my ultimate dream would be to share the stories of different people from all around the world, particularly in less fortunate areas.”
Erin worked in the Village Source Newsroom (powered by the Brisbane Times) for the duration of the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and contributed stories to six out of the eight editions. She has also completed two internships, one with Social Society, a social media public relations firm and another with Griffith University Service Learning. Erin prides herself on her work ethic and ability to produce high quality content to deadline.