Report: Lillian Leptos

Katia M was keen to take up a volunteering elective unit after listening to her brother’s experiences as a volunteer. Matthew had had a really gratifying and positive experience and the same is the case now with Katia. 

One of the intended outcomes of the volunteering unit is to build students’ independence and efficacy, but it continues to surprise me when I see the extent to which students grow in these areas. Katia travels some distance by public transport to get to the Campbellfield Vinnies but when I arrive by car, she is already deep into her duties behind the register.

Today, she is working under the supervision of duty manager Kate, who is glowing in her report on Katia’s work. Formerly a manager at Sheridan (a high end linen manufacturer and retailer), Kate has high standards, and Katia meets them all. 

“We take student volunteers from a range of schools, but you can tell that Katia is genuinely engaged in the work and really wants to be here,” she says.

“She is really good at following directions, but there are lots of personal qualities that make her such an effective staff member.” 

Katia’s kindness, friendliness and courtesy help her to make visitors to the store feel welcome. 

Today, with a blast of winter weather arriving suddenly in Melbourne, one of the main jobs is making a prominent display of the coats. 

“But after that comes store recovery,” explains Katia. This is what staff call the endless tidying up that needs to be undertaken as customers misplace stock, or children treat the toys and games area as their personal playground.

Katia is not waiting for the end of her secondary schooling to think about her work life beyond school. Thinking she might be interested in hairdressing she has already started a preparatory course. As it happened, she quickly realised that this was not the career for her. This trialling and tasting is often the case with young people as they try to find the direction they ultimately want to take. 

After much consideration, Katia is now focused on a career in childcare. With the new federal government promising to expand childcare as a way of bringing more women into the workforce, a career in childcare seems a canny option. 

Whichever direction she embarks on, Katia can be certain that her volunteering experience has earned her the right to an excellent work reference.