Volunteer inspired to contribute

15 May 2023
Community and Social Participation

This week we are celebrating National Volunteer Week, and we wish to thank all the volunteers that give their time and energy to make change in our community. 

This year’s National Volunteer Week theme is ‘The Change Makers’, highlighting the powerful impact volunteers make supporting individuals, communities and the nation.

In celebration of the date, we will share stories of our amazing volunteers. Today, we share the story of Hector de Santos. 


Migrant volunteer Hector de Santos helps newly arrived refugees learn English and also volunteers with local environmental groups in Melbourne’s south east.

He says he feels fortunate in his life and wants to “give back”.

As a migrant from Burma who arrived in Australia in 1962, Hector understands the difficulties and dislocation that can come with moving to a new country.

That’s why he has been volunteering with AMES Australia since 2015, through the AMEP and other programs, helping newly arrived refugees and migrants to learn English and settle in.

After fleeing Burma’s draconian military government and finding refuge in Australia, Hector is paying back his new homeland through volunteering.

“Australia welcomed me when I was forced to leave my home and I feel that I want to contribute something to this wonderful country,” Hector said.

“But I get back more than I put in to my volunteering. I’ve made lots of friends and had some wonderful experiences,” he said.

“I enjoy volunteering and I enjoy trying to help people with their problems,” Hector said.

“I teach English now and I go to meet with Burmese refugees, to tell them about the free English lessons they can get.

“I also just try teach them some basics about life in Australia – take them to shops or whatever.

“It’s better to work, to contribute,” hector said.

Hector also volunteers with a local environment group where he lives in Melbourne’s south east.

“I help out with Friends of Frog Hollow. We plant the native trees around here, which gives the native birds somewhere to be, brings them back to the area,” Hector said.