BY “MONTY” DIMOND
We are in the middle of National Volunteers Week. It’s made me remember how I wanted to do charity work when I was younger because it sounded like a good thing to do. People who are selfless, amazing, caring and just plain awesome do stuff for charity and I wanted to be all of those things. More importantly I wanted others to think of me this way. So I did what I thought was the right thing to do and gave it a pathetic and extremely half assed crack.
When I was 11, I flirted with the 12-hour famine (same thing as the 40-hour famine but a lot shorter). I volunteered my stomach to go without food for 720 excruciating minutes. One hour into the famine and I thought I was going to die. I had downed about 92 barley sugars and skulled 2 litres of apples juice already. I began to convince myself that if I didn’t get something into my tummy with more substance, I would do long lasting damage to my organs. I whinged my way to the four hour mark then dramatically told my mum to say her last goodbyes. The famine had got the better of me and my time had come. Luckily I quickly inhaled a bowl of tortellini that bought me back to full health. It’s fair to say I missed the point of that exercise. I’m pretty sure starving children in Africa don’t have the luxury of whipping up a quick pasta dish whenever they please.
The next time I felt compelled to do a little good was when I was 19. It was around Christmas when I drove past a line of homeless people waiting for their free dinner at the local mission. My heart broke as I looked at the men and woman of varying ages and races unable to afford their basic needs. When I got home I announced to my mum that I would not be attending our Christmas lunch because I was going to volunteer at the Soup Kitchen. My mum was proud and encouraged me to do it, she finished her praise with; “It’s a shame you will miss out on my famous Chrissie pud”. That’s all I needed, my get out of jail free card handed to me in the form of twelve little words. I quickly replied, “Ok, I wont do it, but I will definitely do it next year”. Next Christmas rolled around and ten more after that. I have never been anywhere but at my mum’s dining room table when Saint Nic visits. What a spoilt brat!
I have donated money regularly to various charities, but I now know the reason I couldn’t commit more than my credit card details. It’s because I didn’t really want to. Parting with money was one thing but giving up my time was a whole other scenario. This was until a few months ago when I saw a retweet from Chrissie Swan: “We have 16 babies on our waitlist waiting for cots. Can you help?”
This simple little tweet had a profound impact on me. While I sat on my comfy couch with my healthy five month old baby all-warm in his clean new cot, with every necessity a baby could need. I began to cry. Little babies in my country, in my state, in my own neighbourhood didn’t even have a cot to sleep safely in. This made no sense to me. I jumped on line to see who and how I could help.
‘St Kilda Mums’ was the organisation sending out the request. They are mothers who volunteer their time to collect and sort donations of baby and preschool children’s clothing, toys and nursery equipment. These items are assembled into beautiful packs and distributed to mums, who due to limited income, fleeing domestic violence or drug issues are unable to provide these essentials for their babies.
Jessie Macpherson is one of the amazing women who started the service. She is the type of person who deserves to be called selfless, amazing, caring and awesome. She runs ‘St Kilda Mums’ out of her own home and volunteers over 40 hours a week of her time to keep the wheels turning.
A few Saturdays ago I went over to help her sort through donations. I turned up a little nervous (being a volunteer virgin) but ready to get stuck into it. Over the next few hours I had a truly humbling experience. While Jessie’s kids happily ran around the house we sorted through teeny baby clothes, folded them and neatly popped them into care packs. After the work was done, I jumped in my car and drove home on a high. I felt a sense of connection with the women who would receive the beautiful packs full of baby goodies. They come from a completely different world than I do, but we have one very amazing thing in common; we are all mums.
I wont get on my high horse and say get out there and volunteer, because it was only a couple of weeks ago that I saddled up my own pony. However after feeling I should really do some charity work, I have finally found one that I actually want to be a part of. Best thing about this is my organs won’t shut down and I won’t miss out on Mum’s world famous pud in my quest to be officially “awesome”.
* St Kilda mums began in 2009, a service to help the needs of families suffering hardship. Cots, prams and car seats are much needed at the moment. http://www.stkildamums.org (Melbourne) http://dandelionsupport.org (Sydney)
Katie “Monty” Dimond is a broadcaster and media personality. She has appeared on Channel Ten, Channel Nine, and Nova FM. She is currently busy being a full time Mum and loving it! You can (and should) follow her on Twitter here. You should also like her Facebook page which you can find here.
Have you ever volunteered somewhere that has completely changed the way that you think?