Volunteering provides knowledge and perspective

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 Cherie Wolfe and her husband Robert. 


National Volunteer Week Cherie Wolfe

Retired teachers Cherie Wolfe and her husband Robert have found a new passion through volunteering with AMES Australia to support newly arrived refugees and migrants.

They say supporting people from places as far flung as Burundi, Afghanistan and Tibet has been a “refreshing” and “learning” experience.

The Wolfes are helping people newly arrived in their home city of Mildura to improve their English, but also to navigate a new and unfamiliar society as they begin new lives in Australia.

“We always come away feeling uplifted and also it’s lovely to meet people from different places,” Cherie said.

“We’ve always travelled and we’ve always had an interest in the wider world and in different places and cultures.

“We heard about AMES and we thought volunteering might be a way to contribute something but also learn something and get something back.

“Every week we come across something interesting. The other day, in our conversation group were two sisters from Afghanistan.

“They had left their mother and fled to India where they lived for several years before coming to Australia.

“Hearing stories like theirs makes you realise the hugeness of what they have been through. But it is also inspirational to see how happy and looking forward to the future they are.

“It makes you realise not to complain about small things and it give you some perspective on how lucky we are in Australia,” Cherie said.

She said meeting and supporting people from different cultures was a rewarding experience.

Cherie told of one moment in which she was explaining what the Melbourne Cup was to a Tibetan man she was supporting.

“I explained that Melbourne Cup Day was holiday even here in Mildura and I asked if he knew what a horse race was,” she said.

“He said to me ‘I am from Mustang in Tibet, I come from the horses’. I thought to myself ‘of course’ and it was a great learning experience for me.

“Moments like that make you realise how far people have come and from where,” Cherie said.

She told of another incident that was a source of reflection.

“As part of a conversation exercise, I asked a group of women from Afghanistan what they liked about Australia. They looked at each other and all said ‘the government’ and they meant any government,” Cherie said.

“Another thing they said was that when you are driving around Mildura and you come to an intersection people give way and they smile at you as the do.

“These are precious things we sometimes take for granted. Volunteering to support people who come from places where life is perhaps more complicated and difficult than it is here is very rewarding and educative,” Cherie said.