“A small role with a big impact” is how Port MacDonnell’s Gill Clayfield describes her volunteer experience with not-for-profit organisation Soap-Aid.
Every few weeks, Gill visits local hotels and pubs where staff have painstakingly saved hundreds and hundreds of mini-soaps, used once and discarded – the by-product of hotel guests.
A few times a year, Gill delivers the perfumed haul to Soap-Aid’s Victorian headquarters, where it is melted down, moulded into new bars and sent into Australian Indigenous communities and overseas to countries such as the Philippines.
It was on a 2017 trip to Myanmar when Gill first became aware how soap, such a common part of Australian life, could make a huge difference to those living in impoverished communities.
“The two biggest killers of children in underdeveloped countries are diarrhoea and pneumonia, simply because of poor hygiene,” she said.
“When we were in Myanmar, a charity organisation were just introducing soap to the communities and they were going into schools and teaching children how to wash their hands.”
As the owner of two holiday homes, Gill was well aware of the waste involved in turning over motel rooms for new guests.
“Every time someone stayed, you’d throw out four cakes of soap and it just goes to landfill. It’s such a waste,” she said.
For Gill, also a Councillor for District Council of Grant, fitting in a satisfying volunteering experience around a life already jam-packed with family, council and small business commitments was key.
“All up, it probably takes me just a few hours a month. Honestly, it’s embarrassing how little time I put in,” she said.
“However, such a small thing for me makes a huge difference for others.”
Gill’s Soap-Aid experience is one of seven stories to be showcased in a new multimedia series – Volunteers Unearthed – currently underway by the Limestone Coast Volunteer Service.
The Naracoorte-based service promotes and connects people to volunteering opportunities across the region and volunteer coordinator Caroline Menzel said the series was designed to show there was no such thing as an “average” volunteer.
“Every volunteering opportunity is unique in that it brings its own challenges and rewards,” she said.
“We’re delving into the more unconventional roles and moving away from the traditional stereotype of volunteering.
“These stories will focus on people who have put themselves outside their comfort zone, maybe learnt new skills and also focus on their motivations for volunteering and experiences gained along the way.”
Menzel said Gill’s story was the perfect example of volunteering fitting around a person’s interests, lifestyle and availability.
“The series is a chance to meet some of the region’s hidden gems and find out why helping others is easier than you think,” she said.
“Our 15,000 plus volunteers in the Limestone Coast are some of our region’s best advocates and are filled with so much passion and pride in what they do.”
Menzel said the series will feature a story from each of the seven council regions of the Limestone Coast, reflecting the wide scope of opportunities available through the service.
“We provide a free service – basically a signpost to direct you to volunteering opportunities that you are passionate about,” she said.
“For example, you might like to spend your time planting trees, caring for animals, helping teach conversational English or become a driver to help kids get to sport.
“Volunteering is only really limited by our imagination and that’s the beauty of it. There is always an opportunity to match your time and skillset.”
The Volunteers Unearthed series will be released in October on the Limestone Coast Volunteer Service website.
Regional Showcase is supporting South Australia’s rural communities by telling their stories and celebrating their successes. We will compile these stories and then later in the year we will celebrate the best of South Australia’s regions at a special showcase event.
If you have a tale to tell or know of one, get in touch.
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