We’d be lost at SU QLD without the hundreds of amazing, beautiful, talented, generous, and gifted volunteers who keep the wheels turning. Not even exaggerating!
Our volunteers do everything from running camps, helping on camps, cooking for hungry campers, stuffing envelopes, doing paperwork, writing cards, filing, serving at school breakfast clubs, and a thousand other jobs that keep children and young people connected, and our supporters updated.
Today is International Volunteers Day, so we wanted to highlight one of our long-serving volunteers who runs Far North Queensland Splashout Camp in Cairns. Her name is Kristin Hohoi and she’s amazing.
Why do you volunteer?
I volunteer because of the difference my camp can make in young people’s lives.
For some, camp life is just an extension of the love, warmth and acceptance they already experience in their lives. But for others it may have been the only place in a long time where they felt those things, and felt like they belonged. I see kids who have been getting a hard time at school, or experiencing all sorts of difficulties at home, and even if they have to go back to those circumstances, camp has strengthened them somehow.
All my hard work creates a space where kids can connect with different adults, different role models, and grow a little. That’s why I volunteer.
How many hours a week would you volunteer your time to SU, at a guess?
5-10 hours a week, which ramps up to 40 closer to my camp. (Folks, that’s a FULL TIME JOB just in volunteer hours getting ready for a camp so children and young people can have an amazing time! Then there’s her normal job and life after that!)
How do you juggle life with volunteering?
I get to school early so that I can have one hour of my own, to hang out with God, and to chip away at the 1000 tasks that need doing to put together a camp.
When did you start with SU Camps? And why?
I attended a couple on the South Coast of NSW as a young teenager, but I got involved here in Cairns because there was a need, and since I work in a school, it meant that I had time off in the school holidays where I could serve.
I went on my first camp as the potato peeler in the kitchen so that I could have a parallel experience with my daughter and her cousins but not be up in their face, so to speak. But all my Sunday School kids were on that camp, as well as my daughter, and it killed me to be out the back when I wanted to be up the front. A very wise and gifted older lady, who was Camp Director at the time, approached me and said she saw me as the new Director, at a time when I hadn’t even become a leader!
I’ve seen the difference camps make to kids’ lives. I know camps can be one of those “peak experiences” that are so necessary to a child’s social and emotional development. And doing camps within a “God-context” makes it all the more important to me.
Tell me about the kids who come on camp
I have kids coming from Georgetown in the west, Cooktown up north, and Townsville to the south. We even have a kid coming from WA this year, who is spending a week at camp while spending a larger chunk of time with his grandparents. And then they bring their friends, or classmates, or neighbours. So we get a spectrum of kids.
What impact does camp have on the campers? On other volunteers?
It’s like instant community. Kids are chucked into a group and have to become part of a team in the first 24 hours, and then work together as a team for a whole week. For the kids who are just about to enter high school, or for those who belong to a tiny school in the country, coping with this sudden exposure to new people and a new timetable is a life skill to be acquired.
For the volunteers, being part of the intensity of a week on camp rarely leaves you unchanged. Often it’s the little moments that resonate the most – a game of Uno with a single child, a reminder that there are kids out there with different home lives and challenging life situations which helps remind our volunteers how lucky they are. It does tend to inspire them to keep doing what they’re doing.
What do you think the world would be like without volunteers?
Volunteers often make things happen, make the wheels keep turning.
You see volunteers in every walk of life – your child’s sports team, in the SES and the RFA up here during disasters. If every volunteer stopped tomorrow, people would go to bed hungry, have to fight a bushfire on their own, try to get into a taxi safely after a night out, and negotiate a hundred different scenarios on their own. And the community would be the poorer for it.
Volunteering changes your focus from inwards to outwards, no matter what format it takes. It shakes people out of the “not my problem” mindframe.
SU QLD wishes to thank all the outward-focussed volunteers like Kristin who are making such a positive and powerful difference in our world. If you’d like to volunteer with SU QLD visit suqld.org.au/partner/volunteer/ to find out more.