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A trip from homeland China to visit friends in Australia saw Rong Tu (28) fall in love with the ‘Land Down Under’. So much so, that while on the same holiday, she applied to study in the country.

“I was not planning any of this,” Rong said.

“I went to Sydney and Melbourne where my friends are and I loved it, so they recommended Adelaide to me.”

In 2019, Rong moved from China to Adelaide to study a Master of Social Work at Flinders University.

With a passion for aged care and supporting older people, Rong landed a volunteer role at AnglicareSA’s Westbourne Park residential care home, where she immediately made an impact on staff and residents.

“I grew up with my grandparents who took care of me, so I guess that developed my passion to give back to older generations,” she said.

“We have so much to learn from older people – they’re so knowledgeable and have such incredible stories. I really enjoy their company.”

During her time as a volunteer, Rong’s value to the team at Westbourne Park was immediately recognised. As a result, on the completion of her studies at the end of last year, Rong was offered a paid casual position as an aged care lifestyle assistant.

Three to four days a week, Rong works with the team to support residents’ physical and mental wellbeing by facilitating group programs and providing one-on-one emotional support to residents.

Of the new activities Rong has introduced, ‘chair dancing’ and ‘the pizza toss’ have been crowd favourites.

“I do group activities and individual visits – depending on the needs of the residents,” she said.

“I’m adventurous so I like introducing residents to new experiences and seeing what activities they like the most.

“I love working with them – they are all so nice. And I feel a sense of achievement knowing I’m making a difference.”

Rong preparing for Mother’s Day celebrations with AnglicareSA Customer Wellness Coordinator, Jennifer Pilling.

Rong believes volunteering is the ultimate opportunity for younger generations to get ahead of the pack when it comes to job hunting.

She said her role gave her the valuable real-world experience, skills and confidence to take the next steps in her career.

“As a volunteer, I got so much support, and I was made so comfortable with all of the staff here,” she said.

“You acquire a lot of experience and skills that you can carry throughout your career path.

“I was brought up in an environment where I felt embarrassed to ask for help, but here, they made it so comfortable for me to ask questions. They picked up when I look confused, and they helped me out.”

From 17–23 May 2020, it is National Volunteer Week — an important time to celebrate and recognise the amazing contributions volunteers make to our community.

Learn more about volunteering with AnglicareSA.