Report: Ms Leptos
This visit to my current crop of amazing volunteers saw me heading off to Thomastown Salvos, just off Dalton Road. There, store manager Brittany runs a small but energetic crew of staff. The work of the busy charity shop is supplemented by volunteers like Meng Li and Aster.
Brittany has a background in retail fashion, but when Covid and the lockdown saw the Melbourne city streets become like a ghost town, she was made redundant. Sometimes luck is on your side and in the same week, she applied for, and got the job, as store manager with the Salvation Army. Charity shops run a very lean organisation enabling them to put the vast majority of the profits into programs that respond to the needs of some of the most disadvantaged people in the country.
“There is no doubt in my mind,” she says, “if it were not for the help of volunteers like Meng Li and Aster, I would not be able to get around to half the jobs that have to be done.”
Getting the position at the Salvos was an uphill battle for the WRSC students. There were countless calls to all manner of community organisations. Many had already filled their volunteering positions, while others, still fearful of people bringing Covid into their organisations, closed their doors to all volunteers. The girls showed admirable resilience in continuing the search despite the many disappointing knockbacks. When Brittany agreed to interview the girls, there was genuine relief and joy, but there were still other hurdles to overcome. The Salvos would, quite rightly, only accept double vaccinated people. This delayed their start as parents had to be convinced of the necessity for vaccination. Meng Li began work at the Salvos last term, but Aster has only recently been able to begin her volunteering duties.
Brittany is very enthusiastic about the WRSC students and particularly Meng Li, with whom she has worked for some time now.
“The girls sort, price, hand and display,” she says. “While they are helping our organisation, they are doing a great job developing their employment skills, which includes developing the skills to deal with a wide variety of different people”.
Both Meng Li and Aster have given some thought to their futures and though both girls do not see a career in retail in their future, they know that their work experience at the Salvos is not only helping people in need but also developing their transferable skills.
Meng Li earnestly hopes that in the future she might be able to work in a medical field, “but if that is not possible, I would be happy to have a career in secondary education” she explains. Aster has her sights on a very different future. “I want to go into interior design,” she explains. “I want to work out in the field. I want a career that is not behind a desk.”
Both girls feel very proud that their parents trust them enough to let them do this elective. Aster explains: “They ask lots of questions about where we are and what we are doing but I’m proud my parents trust us enough to find our own positions and go out by ourselves each week.”