Q&A with Volunteer Coordinator Nathan Brown

To kick off National Volunteer Week, we chat with our Family Support Team Volunteer Coordinator, Nathan Brown who shares his insights and words of inspiration on all things volunteering, why he got involved with Very Special Kids and advice for those wanting to make a difference.

What do you do in your role at Very Special Kids?
I coordinate the recruitment, training and care of our Family Service Volunteers who work directly with the families we support. I started with Very Special Kids in November of 2014

What difference does volunteering make to the lives of the families you support?
The truth is, we could never afford to provide the level and breath of support we give families without our volunteers. I can only imagine what it must be like as a parent sitting by a hospital bed wondering what the future holds. To have someone sit with your child while you go for a walk to clear your head, or take a sibling to the Starlight room to expel some energy. To know that there is someone who will read to your child while they are staying at the Hospice and will give them the sole focus and attention. To have a volunteer give up time on their weekend to mentor and befriend and journey with your children… All of these things reduce the feeling of isolation for families. It means there is another person out there that knows their child, knows their name, and knows their story.

How did you first become involved with Very Special Kids?
In 2013 my wife and I decided it was time to shake things up a bit. I was in a job and position that I always thought I wanted, however when I got there I felt bored and uninspired with a deep sense that there has to be more to life than this. So we resigned from our jobs and decided to take 12 months to get involved in the kind of things that really resonated with kind of life that we wanted to live. As part of that quest we came to an information night in May 2014 after trawling through countless volunteer opportunities. I really fell in love with work of Very Special Kids, and the funny thing is that as I drove away from the information night, I talked with my wife about how I think I could bring a lot of value to the Volunteer Coordinator Role.

What inspires you to work at Very Special Kids?
I don’t know what it’s like as a parent to receive a life altering prognosis for your child, but I do have a sense of the impact it makes on a family not just in that moment but down the track also. I love the work of Very Special Kids, and especially what the Family Support Team and Family Service Volunteers do because it’s needed. It’s really no one’s job to provide support to an isolated parent, or sibling or sick child, but I can only imagine what our community might be like, if more people saw that it was everyone’s responsibility to support both practically and emotionally those that need it.

Have you done any volunteer work yourself?
My wife and I volunteer at Fareshare. Fareshare rescues food, and prepares about 25000 nutritious meals a week, resourcing 400 community organisations around Victoria. They are Australia’s largest charity kitchen, and I love the people you meet around the benches, listening to peoples stories as we chop, make sausages and bag up stews. I also lead a small church my wife and I started in 2014. It too is completely volunteer led which brings down our overheads greatly. As a community we partner with a number of organisations, resourcing them financially, with man power and advocacy in whatever ways we can help.

What advice would you give to people thinking about volunteering?
I think everyone should volunteer! Volunteering is an action that we can make that creates the future we want to see for ourselves, kids and community. I think there is something in everyone that attunes them to needs and areas of justice around us. We are all passionate about different things, and those areas of passions, observations, disappointments or hope, whatever you want to call it are the things we should lean into a little more and give time to. When we do our awareness increases, we ourselves are changed in a positive way and become part of the solution.

Volunteering at Very Special Kids is personally rewarding and cares for children and families in need. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer you will need to attend one of our regular information sessions, the next one is on May 25.