Volunteer to career: where could your volunteer experience take you?

Blogs, Volunteers article written on the 10 May 2016

Community campaigners at a Close the Gap event, Brisbane

While volunteering at Oxfam doesn’t always lead to a job, many staff at Oxfam began their career as volunteers and interns. For National Volunteer Week, we’ve asked two of our staff members to share their experiences.

Tom, Internal Communications, Oxfam International

How did you become involved with Oxfam Australia?

I’ve been an Oxfam supporter for about 20 years, and growing up in the UK, you can’t really miss Oxfam’s presence or impact. I first got involved in Oxfam Australia in 2008, when we (the Queensland State Committee) ran an event called Dance for your World — we took over Brisbane’s Queen Street Mall for the day, booming out Bollywood beats and Latin tunes, and put on six hours of dance performances. Our themes were climate change awareness, and general diversity and inclusion — we had dancers from all corners of the globe to dance, sing and help Brisbane understand what Oxfam did, where we worked, and of course, to fundraise. After that, I ran the University group at the University of Queensland for a while, then chaired the State Committee in Queensland, and volunteered at Oxfam Trailwalker in various roles including media and marshalling.

I made many lifelong friends during my volunteering days, many of who I’m still in touch with and some of who I now work with!

What was the highlight of your time as a volunteer?

Cheering on Oxfam Trailwalkers and handing out chocolate for 12 hours on the freezing cold winter night at the top of Mount Glorious in Brisbane. Amazing how popular chocolate can make you…

What has been your journey since finishing up in your volunteer role?

I looked at the skills I needed to be a campaigner, got them, and then gained employment in the Brisbane office as a Community Campaigner. Being in campaigns just means you have to inspire people with the amazing work that we do in Oxfam, and you get to talk about Oxfam all day every day. Perfect, right?

I’ve dressed up as Tony Abbott at the G20 leaders forum in Brisbane, MC’d the Oxfam Trailwalker finish line for 12 hours straight, organised market stalls and Member of Parliament’s visits, given talks in schools and worked with the most inspiring group of volunteers I’ve ever met.

I now work in Oxfam International in Oxford in the UK. I work in internal communications, which I love because it means I get to talk to all of our incredible 10,000 staff and 50,000 volunteers about the work they do, and help them connect with each other to make us better at our mission of ending poverty. It’s like internal campaigning, really!

Since joining Oxfam International, I’ve met government ministers and interviewed women from the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya with Winnie Byanyima (Executive Director of Oxfam International). I’ve connected our celebrity networks with program staff, helped the newly-formed Global Humanitarian Team to communicate with their staff, given talks on how to join Oxfam’s 18 affiliates together more closely, and am currently working on global programs communication strategies to better understand what our staff on the ground need, and how on earth we talk to people in 90 different countries around the world.

Oxfam is a huge and challenging organisation. And — both because of, and despite, this –I love it.

Amberlie, Programs Officer, Oxfam Australia

How did you become involved with Oxfam Australia?

My desire to work for Oxfam dates back to when I was seven-years-old and my mother broke my heart by informing me that I will never be able to own all of Africa to “fix it”. How dare her! Being the resourceful mother she is, from that moment forward she informed me of wonderful individuals and organisations working to make our world a better place. Oxfam always held my attention with its positive branding, and as a result, I have been a long-time admirer of Oxfam’s work.

I was volunteering for a Christmas appeal with a Melbourne-based organisation when my colleague mentioned that he used to work for Oxfam. After some brief networking I meet with two inspiring women from the National Events team who welcomed me into their team of influential change-makers in January 2015.

What was the highlight of your time as a volunteer?

It’s hard to pick just one! I thoroughly enjoyed working on the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Gala in 2015. For this event I organised a variety of props and felt in awe at the magnitude of the event.

Additionally, helping the Supporter Services team with the overwhelming donations for the Nepal earthquake appeal and encouraging teams across the finish line under the clear night sky for Oxfam Trailwalker 2016 were two humbling moments.

What has been your journey since finishing up in your volunteer role?

I finished up volunteering with Oxfam in July 2015 to travel through Europe and Southeast Asia for six months, including a stopover in Cambodia for my third volunteer tour to build houses in remote villages.

Since returning to Australia I resumed my previous role of seven years with Ticketek working at numerous events including the Australia Open. I also held an administrative contract role with CARE Australia in their Fundraising and Campaigns team. Following the conclusion of my role with CARE, I returned to Oxfam to volunteer for Oxfam Trailwalker Melbourne 2016. During this time I gained employment within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples team as a Program Officer.

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