Volunteering a window on the world

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 Frank Desumma. 


For Frank Desumma, volunteering as an English tutor with AMES Australia has been a window on the world.

He says one of the benefits of his volunteering with migrant and refugee settlement agency AMES Australia has been meeting different people from different backgrounds.

“It’s been fascinating and I’ve learned a lot from them,” Frank said.

“I’ve met an interesting variety of people through volunteering with AMES’ AMEP program. There was a doctor from China who was in his 60s but very committed to learning English,” he said.

“There was a guy from Eritrea who became a friend and invited to me to family and community functions. He was interesting because I had not met many people from that part of the world, Frank said.

“I also tutored a man from Vietnam, who had been an air steward in his home country and aspired to a similar job in Australia. He was like a sponge. He would sit on a train and listen to conversations, then he would come to me ask me what certain words meant.

“Sometimes these words were inappropriate – but the whole experience was fascinating,” he said.

After a 25-year career in teaching, Frank switched careers to nursing which gave him time to take up volunteering.

“I joined up with my daughter for the volunteering induction with the ideas that we would be allocated a specific person,” Frank said.
“So we started off with home visits with individuals and I think helped three or four people.

Then things changed and we were running sessions for small groups – they were basically 40 minute conversation classes and they were a chance to follow up what they had done in class or to raise new topics around learning English,” he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic meant that tutoring was switched to remote sessions on zoom.

“I’m happy to tutor over zoom but I prefer face-to-face contact, particularly in small groups or one-to-one,” Frank said.

“Teaching in small groups is fun because you get interesting interchanges of ideas and with one-to-one tutoring you form more of a relationship and you get to know people better,” he said.

“I absolutely enjoy this aspect of volunteering. And I’m a great believer in the concept of volunteering; that if you can to something to help others, you should,” Frank said.