The spirit of volunteering - from Swaziland to Ballarat
22 May 2012
Kerry Gibson had always felt a love for Africa, long before she first visited the vast continent. A volunteer assignment with AVI led to her spending ten years away from Australia, before returning to volunteer in her own community.
After a three month safari in 1995, Kerry knew she had an affinity with Africa and was desperate to return.
Kerry heard about AVI through friends who had recently returned from volunteering in the Solomon Islands, and applied for an assignment straight away.
It wasn’t long before she was on her way for a life-changing adventure to Swaziland.
Kerry knew little of Swaziland, but that would change rapidly and soon Swaziland would have a permanent place in her heart.
Up until then Kerry had been working in the corporate environment but had strong social justice and environmental roots. Her degree had been in environmental studies.
Kerry was thrilled to return to her passion of community development with the skills she had developed and enhanced in the corporate world.
Kerry’s role was as a Development Adviser with a youth-based organisation.When her assignment finished, Kerry knew it wasn’t time for her to leave Swaziland, and soon found other work with NGOs.
Kerry loved her time as an AVI volunteer. She cherished the people she met and worked with in her placement, and loved being part of the journey of an organisation. However, this wasn’t to be the end of Kerry’s time with AVI.
AVI opened a regional office in Swaziland and asked Kerry to be the Country Representative.
Returning to Australia
Kerry loved this role and the many organisations and volunteers that crossed her path. However, towards the end of 2010 it was time to starting thinking about returning to Australia. In March 2011, after almost ten years in Africa, Kerry and her husband returned to Australia.
As many of our RVs would know, it was difficult to return home for many reasons. The things that Kerry missed about Swaziland were countless.
The reverse culture shock was not easy and the realisation of the many freedoms and liberties that we take for granted in Australia were very present in her mind.
There were times when she remembered why she loved Australia – the smell of the Australian bush, the songs of the Magpie; unique things that connected her to back home.
"Coming back from an intense period of volunteering gets in your blood; it changes who you are.
"You become more aware of the community around you, how you want to be in the community around you, how can you reconnect with the community around you," says Kerry.
Kerry had always been passionate about the environment and volunteering, and couldn’t believe it when she saw a role with Conservation Volunteers as their Volunteer Engagement Manager. It seemed a perfect fit. It was a natural environment for her to amalgamate her two passions.
Conservation Volunteers. founded in 1982, gives volunteers the opportunity to join important environmental and wildlife conservation projects.
Conservation Volunteers would love to hear from AVI RVs who are interested in finding out more about volunteering.
The organisation has opportunities all around Australia available for people who have one or more day of their time to volunteer.
As Kerry says, volunteering is in your blood - volunteering in your community can be a way of reconnecting with your home when you return.
Find out more about Conservation Volunteers
Go to the Conservation Volunteers website