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2020 Community Engagement Awards

The winners of the 2020 community engagement category have volunteered significant time and energy to help other people. From supporting fellow international students to outreach in the broader community to establishing a free not-for-profit language school, all agree that volunteering has helped them as much as it has helped their communities. We invited them to share their stories.

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Winner: Yu (Amy) Shi from China

Studying: International Baccalaureate at Glenunga International High School

Amy’s sense of community and serving others reveals itself in many ways as she works hard to help the people in her school community, her local neighbourhood and across the world. Amy doesn’t just step up to the call to help; she actively seeks out opportunities to lift people, teach new skills and provide the kind of support that offers long-term benefits. Amy works tirelessly for her community while continuing to maintain perfect scores in her International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme at Glenunga International High School. For these reasons, Amy is the 2020 winner of both this Community Engagement award as well as the Academic Excellence: Schools category. Amy is also the deserving winner of the 2020 International Student of the Year award.

What was the inspiration behind starting your not-for-profit, Charity for Children, Languages and Life?

I think languages is the core skill you need to improve intercultural understanding. I learned Japanese here in Adelaide, and can now speak four languages, Mandarin, Japanese, English and Malay.  I realised I feel confident in speaking different languages, but many people don’t. Language is a key to education, but if we don’t share our language and cultural backgrounds, people might not speak with people from outside their world and only stay in their comfort zone. I started Languages and Life to help children who what to achieve a cultural understanding but don’t have the opportunity to do so.

How does the program work, and how does it help?

I asked students at my school is they wanted to volunteer as language tutors. I set up the platform, and we began to contact people and let the word spread out. Languages and Life is for children or teenagers who do not have access to learn language skills or financially struggle to attend classes. We also offer a life guidance session to help people with life issues. It’s a completely free online platform.

We have people from all over the world accessing our tutoring, and we’ve helped hundreds of disadvantaged children across Australia. If they can take one hour a week to learn some easy words from a language, if they travel to that country, they can easily make connections with the local community.

Tell us how you supported your community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sadly, my grandfather passed away due to COVID-19, and I couldn’t go back because of the border closures. My family were worried and began to ship thousands of masks to me. But it’s just my mum and me here, so there were too many for us, so I started to deliver masks to local hospitals, dentists and medical centres. And I gave them to teachers and students at my school and people in my local neighbourhood. I also volunteered as a language translator to help people better understand information during the pandemic.

How do you balance your studies with your community activities?

I’m never worried about my studies because I do a lot of work beforehand and take notes which leaves me with more time to evolve my leadership and volunteering opportunities. I’ve created a tight schedule and the hours of commitment to my study and volunteering are equally long. I gather my team members to have weekly sessions to discuss their progress and share insights about the operations of my non-profit organisations. These techniques have assisted me in monitoring my study and volunteering work.

How do you think your community service work will enhance your future career?

I want to be a social welfare worker in various non-profit organisations. The valuable experiences I’ve had have helped me to develop problem-solving skills, face different challenges and embrace all cultural differences. My name, Yu Shi, means ‘helping people without asking for anything in return’. It’s tightly connected with my lifelong values and is instilled into the way I live my life.

Amy is also the winner of the 2020 International Student of the Year, and the 2020 Academic Excellence: Schools Award. Learn more about Amy’s work as a student leader at Glenunga International High School, and her experiences as the youngest Australian delegate at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific’s Forum to Empower Youth.


Highly Commended: Preeti Maharjan from Nepal

Studying: Master of Public Health at The University of Adelaide

During her time in Adelaide, Preeti has volunteered in many different organisations from government to not-for-profit to university clubs and aged care centres. Among many other things, she’s entered data for SA Health, volunteered as a mentor at a camp for disadvantaged children, planted trees and raised funds, and conducted group activities for aged care residents. As the Professional Development Director at her university’s Rotaract Club, Preeti has organised sessions for members on resume writing, using LinkedIn, effective public speaking, mind mapping and managing stress and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. The diversity of Preeti’s volunteering experience is vast, and her desire to help her community impressive.

Preeti says the impact on the community is the better-known benefit of volunteering, but there are many benefits to her as the volunteer as well. Working for the community gives her a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. It also makes her feel that she is part of the broader society and has helped her meet people outside of her university and learn more about Adelaide and many different cultures. “Community is important for me, and I believe it is important to give back to the community we live in.”


Highly Commended: Hien Minh Vu from Vietnam

Studying: Bachelor of Applied Biology at The University of Adelaide

Hien Minh has dedicated most of her volunteering work to helping international students transition smoothly to their new life here in Adelaide. She’s volunteered as an international peer mentor with orientation activities as well as helping to support international students as they transitioned to online studies during the COVID-19 lockdown. Hien Minh wants to help international students feel at home by empathising, listening and sharing, and she’s always happy to talk with students and offer encouragement outside of her official volunteering duties.

Hien Minh also likes to help students in her field of study so they can maximise the opportunities available to them and thrive academically. She has volunteered as a PASS Leader developing study sessions and helping students prepare for exams, as well as helped to facilitate networking opportunities for students through her work with the Adelaide University Biosciences Network. Hien Minh has also volunteered with Robogals to inspire more female students to study STEM subjects in the future. “I find an incredibly strong urge to help others to find joy and positivity in figuring out their own pathway.”

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