Volunteer of the Month- May 2015: Shwetha


1. What is your background (profession/ workplace/ training)?

Dentist/ Currently enrolled in MPH at The University of Melbourne.

2. What inspired you to become a Water Well volunteer?

I have always been drawn to global health and well-being because of its unbounded solutions to health related issues and social connectedness. I want to be able to contribute positively towards the health of the community and society at large. Research has shown that volunteering makes a measurable positive difference on individuals overall happiness and mental well-being!!!  For me, it is also a responsibility I owe to myself.  I got to know about the Water Well Project online, and felt that since I have been volunteering in various organizations primarily in a one-on-one mentoring role, facilitating group sessions particularly to the asylum seeker and refugee community would be a worthwhile experience. And I must say that there is no turning back!  Having attended induction back in September 2013 and been part of various sessions over two years, I feel it is an ideal organisation for healthcare professionals not only to impart their knowledge but also learn from a diverse group of people!

3. Please share one of your favourite Water Well sessions or moments.

All the healthy eating and oral hygiene sessions so far have been filled with curious questions at the start, oohs and aahs during the talk and a reflection on all the things participants have been doing wrong all their lives until we provided specific information to them.  A recent dental hygiene session with the Burmese Women’s Group in Springvale, started uneventfully with a heavy downpour followed by the interpreter arriving an hour late due to a busted tyre. However things didn’t turn out to be bleak since 14 energetic and inquisitive ladies still turned up for the session and a young girl even volunteered to take the initiative to interpret to the group till the interpreter arrived to avoid waste time! I was thrilled to see the leadership ability and empowerment the women felt along with their enthusiasm in sharing personal stories and views.

4. What tips do you have for new volunteers?

  • Contact your partner volunteers beforehand, and get accustomed to the topic templates and resources provided. Also do contact the community representative to check on the directions to the place (for those who are geographically challenged and use the public transport! Beware: There could be two centres with the same name in the same area!)
  • Be cheerful and maintain eye contact because the participants don’t want to feel left out when you are trying to engage them in a topic (no matter how boring you feel your information maybe!)
  • Be patient- The information you are giving them may perhaps overwhelm them as they may be unaware of a lot of things. Give them time to digest the information and pause at intervals (breathe in between, do not rush through the session like an express train!)
  • Over-preparing is not necessary either! Most of the sessions end up being participant-focused since it’s about them, and interaction is exactly what we want out of the session. Relax and enjoy yourself because at the end of the day that is what matters!