Volunteering helps teen beat anxiety

For the first two years of high school 14 year-old Holly Johnson was so crippled by anxiety she could barely bring herself to talk in public – including to her classmates at school. Volunteering with her school’s Amnesty International group helped Holly identify a cause she believes in and along the way she also found her unique voice.

“I like that we are trying to solve global issues as part of a world-wide community and I am able to campaign on issues I am passionate about like human rights for LGBTI people and also I like helping on issues to do with Aboriginal education,” Holly said.

This Friday December 2nd Holly, who lives in Gerogery and attends Billabong High School, will be crowned the 2016 Student Volunteer of the Year at a State Gala in Sydney in the presence of more than 150 other state finalists in the Volunteer of the Year Awards.

Holly was announced the Murray Volunteer of the Year at a regional ceremony in September, where she was also the Murray Student Volunteer of the Year.

Holly also volunteers at two local aged care facilities where she will do anything practical to help the residents and staff – but the things she loves best is listening to their stories and making up games and taking the residents on outings.

While Holly still sometimes struggles with social anxiety she challenges herself to talk to her younger school peers about the human rights issues championed by Amnesty and her interactions in the nursing homes has given her the satisfaction that she is making a positive difference in the lives of people who sometimes have very little social contact.

The NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards are run by The Centre for Volunteering – the State’s peak body for volunteering – to highlight the contribution 2.4 million volunteers make in NSW.

Centre for Volunteering CEO Gemma Rygate said Holly’s personal and volunteering achievements were remarkable and showed the two-way benefits of volunteering.

“Volunteering opens doors for others in need and for volunteers themselves,” Ms Rygate said.

“Holly is impressive and by volunteering she is not only helping the community, she is also gaining valuable skills and experience that will assist her throughout her life.”

Holly, who is in Year 9 at high school, also volunteers at Jindera Nursing Home and Culcairn House.

NSW Minister for Aging, Disability Services and Multiculturalism, The Hon John Ajaka, who is responsible for volunteering, said the awards are an important means of recognising the vibrant contribution individual volunteers make towards strengthening communities across NSW.

“When I talk to volunteers across the state, one of the things I hear is that meaningful recognition of the vital and diverse contribution of volunteers is central to volunteer satisfaction,” Minister Ajaka said.

“The NSW Government is proud to be a founding partner and principal sponsor for these awards because it recognises the importance of volunteering to individuals and communities across NSW.

“Volunteers in NSW provide more than 240 million hours of support each year, conservatively valued at $5 billion. This incredible effort cannot be understated. I congratulate the winners and nominees and I applaud the wonderful example of volunteering they represent,” Mr Ajaka said.

ClubsNSW CEO Anthony Ball said the club industry was proud to be Principal Corporate Partners of the 10th Annual NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards.

“On behalf of our 1300 member clubs, we are very proud to support this Awards program which shines a spotlight on the 2.4 million volunteers in NSW.

“Clubs across NSW rely upon over 32,000 volunteers to assist in their operations to provide services to members and their local communities.

“Through a myriad of opportunities, volunteers in the club industry dedicate over one million hours of their time per year, and we are incredibly proud of the part they play in building and strengthening our local communities.’

Winners of the 2016 NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards will be announced on Friday 2 December, 11.30 to 2.30pm at Norths, Cammeray, Sydney.

The NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards are generously supported by principal partners the NSW Department of Family and Community Services, and ClubsNSW, the industry body which represents the state’s 1300 not-for-profit clubs, as well as Bupa Aged Care.

Winners will be announced in the following categories:

The 2016 Volunteer of the Year

Student Volunteer of the Year Volunteer Team of the Year
Youth Volunteer of the Year Excellence in Volunteer Management
Adult Volunteer of the Year Corporate Volunteer of the Year (Individual)
Senior Volunteer of the Year Corporate Volunteer Team of the Year


The NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards is an annual program run by The Centre for Volunteering to recognise the outstanding work of volunteers in every region across NSW. Twenty award ceremonies are held across NSW from August to October where nominees are recognised with certificates and winners announced.

Regional winners will be entered into the overall State 2016 Volunteer of the Year

For more information about more about the 2016 NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards visit our site.