RAVN National Volunteer Week events: Meet your speakers

This year, the Returned Australian Volunteer Network's (RAVN) May events are being held alongside National Volunteer Week. This helps us celebrate the work of Australian volunteers overseas, but also the ongoing contributions volunteers make locally to their communities. Here are five returned volunteers who are make exemplary contributions, and who you'll also see at the Perth and Sydney RAVN events this month.

RAVN_Glenys DaviesGlenys Davies
Glenys is a retired physiotherapist, having stepped back from full-time work in 2005. Her volunteer assignment in New Guinea in 1966 was the first time she worked outside a hospital as a Physiotherapist, providing support to clients and visiting children at their homes in nearby villages and settlements. 

Volunteer experience:
  • 1966 –Physiotherapist / Red Cross Clinic / Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea 
  • 2006 – Physiotherapist / National Association of Medical Social Care / Nahr el-Bared, Lebanon
  • 2007 – Consultant Physiotherapist / Caritas Liban Migrants Centre / Beirut, Lebanon
  • 2012 – Physiotherapist Advisor – Disability / Movement for Peace / Beirut, Lebanon
  • Medical Association for the Prevention of War / Perth, Australia
  • Environment House / Bayswater, Australia

How has volunteering positively impacted your life?

“The people I have met through my long association with the volunteer program have always been inspirational and I am still in contact and friends with many of them. Their stories of what they are doing post-assignment continue to give me encouragement to remain active in the many organisations I belong to!”

Leigh Dix
Leigh Dix is an occupational therapist who has spent her life working
mainly in paediatrics. She has volunteered overseas on both long andRAVN_Leigh Dix short-term assignments. Currently, she works with the Western Australian Health Department, coordinating the Play and Learning Program, a home-visiting program for parents and young children experiencing developmental delay. 

Volunteer experience:
  • 1990 – Occupational Therapist / Los Pipitos – Association of Parents with Children with Disabilities / Managua, Nicaragua
  • 1999 – Occupational Therapist / Early Intervention Centre for Children with Disabilities / Suva, Fiji 
  • 2017 – Occupational Therapist / Humanity and Inclusion / Yangon, Myanmar
  • Current – Secretary / Medical Association for Prevention of War (WA Chapter)

Why would you recommend others get involved in volunteering?

“As Oliver Wendell Holmes said: ‘A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions’. Volunteering, both in Australia and abroad, is just so valuable. It gives you so many new experiences! And with that comes a deeper understanding about different cultures, languages, work environments and social responsibility, as well as a greater tolerance for ambiguity, and an authentic realization that we are all the same and we are all different."

RAVN_Mar KnoxMar Knox

Mar is a First Nations woman from Canada, although she has lived in Australia for 25 years. After many years working in the petroleum industry as a commercial negotiator, she retired before embarking on an international volunteer assignment and putting her corporate skills to work in the development sector. Once back in Australia, she spent three years working as an independent director for several Indigenous Trusts (Gelganyem and Kilkayi) in the East Kimberley Region of Western Australia. 

Volunteer experience:

  • 2009 – Advocacy and Dissemination Officer / Rural Media Network / Tamale, Ghana 
  • Current - Centre for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees / Perth, Australia

How has volunteering positively impacted your life?

“My volunteer placement in 2009-10 was really a transition to retirement for my partner and me. We were finishing up our corporate life, and doing some international volunteering was a good way to move us into the next phase of our life. It opened my eyes to the complexity of development work, and also served to highlight the importance of continuing my work as an advocate for social justice. Everyone can find a way to contribute. Not only does it contribute to making the world a better place for everyone, it is also hugely rewarding at a personal level.”  

Ben GwilliamRAVN_Ben Gwilliam

Ben works for a private organisation in a varied role that includes management, education and clinical components across a number of settings in regional New South Wales. He is passionate about access and inclusion for disadvantaged groups. While volunteering in Malawi he worked with partners to give sporting and education opportunities to young men and women, and it was this experience that led to his involvement in similar programs when he returned to Australia.

Volunteer experience:

  • 2007 – Youth Project team member / Youth Challenge Australia / Demerara River region, Guyana
  • 2011 – Paediatric Physiotherapist Educator / Kindergarten #10 / Ulaanabaatar, Mongolia
  • 2013 – Physiotherapist / Cure International Hospital / Blantyre, Malawi 

Why would you recommend others get involved in volunteering?

“I would recommend others get involved in volunteering because it is a life and career-altering experience. It opens doors to opportunities you may have never have imagined were there, and helps you to discover and build skills you may never thought you had.”

RAVN_Lydia Luo

Lydio L

Lydia currently works in marketing and communications and believes that what she’s learned through volunteering has been invaluable to all aspects of her life. She continues to volunteer locally with Lifeline as a Telephone Crisis Supporter.

Volunteer experience: 

  • 2010 – Communications Officer, Australian Youth Ambassador for Development / Habitat for Humanity / Bangladesh

What’s the most valuable skill you’ve gained from volunteering?

“Communication skills and learning how to listen—it’s so important to your personal and professional life. Communication is the essence of everything we do. It’s easy to become detached from how people outside your bubble live. I have found it rewarding and humbling.”