Amanda Young


Q: How long have you been volunteering at ARV?

A: 8 months

Q: Describe your experience at ARV

A: From the start, I have been very impressed with how well things are run at ARV.  I was in the first bunch of volunteers recruited through Seek and the process was easy and seamless with quick communication from Lindsay.  I was enrolled in a training program within a few weeks and was out volunteering a week after that.  The online interface is easy, the training was informative and engaging and the programs are well run.


I was so impressed that I asked to join the admin committee for the Kids team and Mel reached out so quickly to welcome me onboard; spend some time familiarising me with systems and processes; and forgiving my ineptness at times.  We had Jamie with all her enthusiasm as our client manager which has been fun and made transitioning easier as I felt welcome very quickly.  The other team members also made it really easy to be included and I suspect that was because of Mel’s welcoming attitude.  I am now co-program co-ordinator of the Kids program with Mel.  I also ran my first program in March and had an absolute blast …….I can’t wait to do my next one.

Q: What made you choose ARV?

A: I chose ARV because I wanted to work with kids – I find their energy and zest for life/activities contagious.  With ARV, I get laughter with the kids; a sense of achievement when a program goes well; and a sense of community when we have meetings.  The complexities that affect these specific kids is one I have learnt to understand and sympathise with, also being from a background or having grown up in Africa with coups and instabilities that most people have been fortunate enough not to experience.

Q: Describe your favourite activity with ARV so far

A: Is it wrong to say my own Nutty scientist day?  I just loved being busy and working hands on with the kids and seeing the delight on their little faces.  Second was the OzHarvest cooking session which was also really engaging and I think the sentiment behind it really resonated with the kids.

Q: What is something you like to do separate from ARV?   

A: I absolutely love travelling and have been fortunate enough to do a fair bit.  My favourite was going to Cuba on a Salsa holiday (never having danced before) and met some amazing friends through it, although I still can’t follow the beat of the music, but I have fun trying.  I enjoy reading, I love baking and I used to love riding my motorcycle until I sold it, due to some near misses from people not looking when they are changing lanes.  I also love to sing along to songs, but I have been told I am a terrible singer and never use the right words 😊

Q: Would you recommend ARV to other volunteers?

A: I most certainly would, and not only for the simple onboarding process, but the benefit to the kids and as I overheard one of the Volunteers say “It is so easy – I get told where and when to turn up, all I have to do is call the parents 2 days before to tell them a time I will collect the kids, I get a fun day out and a yummy lunch – it’s awesome”.

Q: What’s a fun fact that no one at ARV knows about you?

A: I can make balloon animals.

Q: If you could change one thing in the world what would it be? 

A: I would like to make more people empathetic to the plights of others.

Q: If you could be a super hero, who would you be?  

A: Xena the Warrior Princess – I like her “hands on approach” to problems. 

Q: Tell me about where you grew up

A: I grew up on a farm in Mkushi (Zambia), which was 5 hours from the capital city, Lusaka.  I went to boarding school in Blantyre, Malawi, and at age 5 used to fly there with my older brother (aged 8 at the time) as unaccompanied minors, leaving my poor mum crying at the airport behind sunglasses.  I remember having to stand on the side of the road and wave the president of Malawi by whenever he was in town and having to stand at the cinema while the national anthem played, but my time in Malawi was wonderful, the people are kind and welcoming.  


I was then taken back to a school in Zambia, when my younger sister started school as it was too expensive to send all 3 of us to an international school.  This boarding school was 7 hours drive from home.  I have always lived away from home, as far as I can remember.  I remember growing up without electricity, using a generator and when we finally got electricity, the slightest weather change or a single rain drop would cause it to go off for days.  I remember not being able to use an iron as the generator could not sustain it, so we had a coal iron and all our “clean clothes” smelt like coal.  I remember though having freedom to roam, being surrounded by bush with fishing, swimming, riding motorbikes and making our own kites, catapults and toys being a huge part of my youth.  I remember plugging up an old canoe, only to swim back to shore with a sinking canoe.  Whilst this all was great there were shortages of basic food ingredients and a struggle when crops didn’t grow or there were coups and shops and roads were taken over by the military.


I moved to South Africa for school in 1992 at a very politically uncertain time (the end of apartheid) and I found the transition difficult. South Africans due to their hardships are a toughened bunch of people and whilst truly amazing and kind people, I felt the high walls and razor fenced houses uncomfortable and confronting.   In 1999, for reasons of safety and freedom, I came to Australia as a university student and have been welcomed with open arms.  Australia has been my home for the longest part of my life and I consider myself very lucky.  Notwithstanding my current ease with living here though, on my first train trip – I struggled to figure out which train platforms to go from and which train to get on  - this was all very daunting.  Seeing people walking around on the streets at all hours, was just unheard of, as in South Africa you drive where you are going – no one just wanders the streets aimlessly; and to hear Australians complain about “late trains/buses” was amusing as I had never before caught or had available to me public transport, so for me it was the best thing ever invented. As life goes on however, you start taking things for granted again……..I aim to improve with this and do a “check in” more often to remember where I came from, how far I have come and what I can do for others to make their lives better.

Australian Refugee Volunteers