There aren’t many 24-year-olds who have volunteered in their local community since primary school. There’s probably even less that continue to do so not for all of the awards and the accolades, but because they get so much out of it for themselves including knowing that they’ve given something priceless back to the community.
Hayley Johns grew up in Gloucester and that’s where her volunteering journey began.
“I have always found myself in leadership positions even though I can be very shy. But, in primary school and high school I was involved with the SRC and the Duke of Edinburgh International Award in high school which is what really got the ball rolling.
“I started volunteering with the SES and at the time was doing all of the training and helping on simple call outs and then I just found that I loved being part of that group and helping the community. I’m no longer part of the organisation, but I am incredibly grateful for the experience and being part of an inspirational team.”
Like a lot of young people who grow up in country towns, Hayley moved closer to the coast so she could commence her studies at the University of Newcastle.
“That’s when I discovered so many opportunities for young people like the Young Endeavour Youth Scheme and the Lake Macquarie Youth Advisory Council. At university I was part of the rural health club promoting working in rural areas to health students due to the major gap in care in that area and I also went on to represent the university students at a national level through the National Rural Health Student Network,” Hayley said.
Hayley was the Miss Maitland Youth Ambassador for two years with Maitland City Council which opened up a plethora of opportunities. She would attend Business Chamber meetings, events and represent the Hunter River Agricultural and Horticultural Association. As part of a Youth Week, Hayley also had the opportunity to speak at the MCG Women in Business Luncheon which she said really pushed her out of her comfort zone and was a great experience.
The 24-year-old graduated from university last year with a Bachelor of Podiatry and is now employed as a Podiatrist full time with Hunter Podiatry Services.
A full time job hasn’t stopped her from volunteering though.
“I’m currently volunteering with St John Ambulance so I’m a first responder for the Maitland Combined Division – it keeps me on my toes and gets me out into the community.”
One of the opportunities that really stands out to Hayley was being part of the APEC Voices of the Future summit where she and her fellow youth delegates published a call-to-action to world leaders on subjects like climate change and the COVID-19 response, which was presented to former New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Adern in 2021. Hayley and the other youth delegates also had the opportunity to meet Their Excellencies Sir David and Mrs Linda Hurley.
Hayley has won a long list of awards since she started volunteering. She was the Gloucester Young Citizen of the Year in 2016, the Maitland Young Citizen of the Year in 2019, the Maitland/Dungog Finalist in the Inspiring Young Person of the Year 2019 Awards, the Centre for Volunteering’s Hunter Young Volunteer in 2021 and 2022, and that’s just some.
“I grew up in a small rural town so the community spirit was pretty high and so you want to help out where you can and that sort of mentality is engrained in everything that I do now.
“Is it good to get out there in your community and find a sense of belonging and purpose and meet people, because I moved from my home town I didn’t know anyone so I’ve made so many new friends through volunteering,
“The sense of community and giving back, it’s all so valuable,” Hayley said.
“My parents always say that I’ve done a lot for my age and I don’t really view it like I’m ticking these things off, it’s more that I can’t sit still and I just want to be out there doing something and helping the community wherever I can.”
Hayley is thoroughly enjoying her time with St John Ambulance and she said they’re always looking for more volunteers.
|If you’re interested in volunteering go to: https://stjohnnsw.com.au/volunteering|