Volunteers of the Month – July 2022: Jeremy & Sean

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

Jeremy: Currently, I am a fifth and final year medical student in the University of Tasmania with a strong passion for education. In my free time, I enjoy volunteering, bushwalking, playing tennis and the guitar.

Sean: Hi everyone! I am currently a final year medical student doing my clinical placements at the Launceston General Hospital in Tasmania.

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

Jeremy: Over the years in clinical practice, I have consistently observed that patient outcomes almost always improve with increased health literacy via patient education. With good education provided, patients are empowered to take control of their own health. Personally, I find it very satisfying when patients gain a deeper understanding of their health issues which typically translates into an appreciation for their management plan and the importance of medication adherence. Having said that, from my observation, I find that many from a refugee and asylum seeker background have poorer health outcomes. Therefore, I was inspired to volunteer with The Water Well Project because it enables me to provide health education to these communities to empower them to take charge of their own health with evidence-based advice and guidance.
Sean: I have always been really interested in volunteering as it gives me lots of happiness and joy knowing that I contributed towards something meaningful and helped others. I chanced upon The Water Well Project earlier in the year and found it fascinating as I had never worked with people from refugee backgrounds before and found it a great opportunity to learn from, and interact with people from diverse cultural backgrounds.   

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

Jeremy: During one of the sessions aimed at providing healthy eating advice in Launceston, I remembered how intrigued the participants were with the health star rating system and nutrition information panels on the packaging of the food items we brought as props. They were asking question after question and talking about the types of food they typically consume. Having discussed the various nutritional compositions and the consequences of having an imbalanced diet, they were clearly engaged and thinking about how they can apply this new-found knowledge into their daily lives. At the end of the session, they thanked us volunteers for the useful and practical information provided and expressed an appetite for more.

I left the room that day knowing that I have inspired a group of people - despite the language barrier - on how to take charge of their own health and knowing that such upstream interventions will manifest years or even decades down the road as improved health outcomes. It is a different satisfaction altogether when I'm in hospital looking after severely ill patients as compared to these sessions where we try to keep them as healthy as they can be for as long as they can.

Sean: I  vividly remember during my first session held in Launceston, both me and my co-volunteer (Jeremy) were excited yet nervous because we weren't too sure what to expect. We had a Bhutanese community that day and we were both pleasantly surprised as the participants were all so engaged and interactive and asking lots of questions. They seemed really happy during the session and that made me feel happy too😊. One participant even commented that she loved the session and learnt something new, and that it was nice to have this opportunity to gather around with friends in a relaxed environment. It's an experience that stuck with me and I still remember it till this day.

4. What tips do you have for new volunteers?

Jeremy: These sessions are incredibly fun and rewarding. Participants are generally keen on learning and often have many questions regarding the topic of the day. In my experience thus far, participants often have questions that are specific to their situation or health needs. Therefore, I think that it is important to know your limits as a volunteer and not their healthcare provider and to be prepared to have a small spiel should such personal questions arise.

Sean: It's totally normal to feel nervous before your first session, but there'll always be people that can provide support which is really helpful. Do reach out to the education officers, community representatives and other members of the team prior to the session, they're more than happy to answer any questions and provide valuable advice. Apart from that, just have fun! It's a humbling experience and I have really enjoyed my time thus far.