At Telstra we want our employees to volunteer with local community and Not-For-Profit organisations. Employees are given a day of paid leave each year so that they can get involved with causes they are passionate about.

National Volunteer Week presents a great opportunity to say thanks and celebrate some of the great things that Telstra volunteers are doing across Australia.

Gaj Skandakumar and Joseph Teoh

RSPCA: for all creatures great and small

Gaj: “Whenever I  hear of someone’s experience or hear a story of their charitable work, I always wish how great it would be to be able to do that and then my mind wonders how do they manage to do so while working full time! But when the opportunity to spend a day at the RSPCA was offered I jumped at the chance. This was possible with the great initiative of a Telstra staff volunteer day available to all.

As a dog owner, the RSPCA is close to my heart. How can I lend a hand to those without a voice? I went there with a colleague with no expectations and what I got out of it was an appreciation of the challenges and the inner working of an organisation. I spent the day in the front retail section cleaning shelves and stocking goods.

As simple as the task may be, it enabled the actual RSPCA staff to focus on their primary roles to run this magnificent organisation. We hear the statement “time is money” and it is no more evident than here for charities and not for profit organisations crave manpower more than funding.

It is easier for us to make a gold coin donation but difficult to donate our time. But with the annual volunteer day I intend to utilise it to support the RSPCA the best possible way and for anyone to follow what is close to their heart. This is the greatest donation I have ever made!”

Joseph: “Wow! It seems like an eternity ago that Gaj and I had the opportunity to volunteer at the RSPCA on the 23 August, 2012. What a great experience and what an honour it was to represent Telstra!

The day started as it would normally on any business day. Gaj and I were introduced to the coordinator at around 9.30am, who outlined our activities on the day. In addition to us, there were also three other volunteers.

Gaj and I were placed in the retail area, whilst the remaining volunteers were appointed other roles. We spent our time cleaning and restocking their retail area over the first five-six hours. Following this, we were fortunate enough to go through a tour of the RSPCA, including the construction work and short/long term developments of the business. It was interesting to hear about the HUGE donations used to fund the multi-million dollar developments and their challenges around their future funding.

All in all, I think this was a great experience and important for all Telstra employees to help contribute to the great organisations out there. Our presence on the day sent a clear message that we are very supportive in giving back to the communities we service.”

Both Gaj and Joseph are Account Executives in Telstra Large Business

Roger Smith

CFA Volunteer

I am currently a volunteer fire fighter with the Country Fire Authority (CFA) at the Koo Wee Rup Brigade and I am also a Deputy Group Officer with the Cardinia Group of Fire Brigades.

I started in April 1993 so have just ticked over 20 years of volunteering. I started at Cranbourne where I was a DGO, Secretary/Treasurer and then 1st Lieutenant and was there for 11 years before moving down to Koo Wee Rup.

I have been involved with numerous incidents from floods, structure fires of various types, grass fires, motor vehicle accidents, animal rescues. I have been too many different parts of Victoria, into NSW, just over the NSW border into Queensland and earlier this year spent a week in Tasmania helping them out.

I work in an Incident Control Centre most of the time for the really large jobs and spent over 70 hours working for CFA during week of the Black Saturday fires as I was Group Duty Officer as well as my day job with Telstra.

My whole family is involved with providing service to the country as my daughter is also a volunteer fire fighter, my wife is a member of the brigade auxiliary and my son is a major in the army.

Roger is a Development Manager and has been with Telstra for nearly 16 years.

Vesna Markwick

Full time worker, part time student, wife, sometime renovator and Foster-Carer.

I volunteer with the Department of Family and Community Services, more commonly known as DOCS. They’re role is to protect vulnerable children who are at risk of harm and provide care when they are not able to live with their families.

My husband and I initially got involved as we wanted to help out some of the thousands of children who don’t have the chance to grow up in a happy safe environment; the way we had. We have cared for children from 2 years of age through to teenagers. We invite them into our homes for home cooked meals, fun activities and one on one time.

The most important gift we give these children is our time, all the toys in the world don’t make children happy, it is time shared in a safe and caring environment where they can just be themselves – kids.

Whilst it can be challenging as many of the children have anxiety and anger issues. The rewards have been more than I expected, it truly has opened our hearts to these children and their stories. Fostering has helped me remember how lucky I am to have grown up in a safe and happy family and unfortunately not every child gets this opportunity. A little help and time can make a huge difference to their lives and the choices they make later on in life.

Vesna is General Manager Move Optimisation in Strategy and Operations.

Michael Lewis

Volunteer Community Emergency First Responder – Chevra Hatzolah

What is Hatzolah and what does the name mean?

Hatzolah is a volunteer First Response organisation for medical emergencies. We are 100% community funded, receiving no government funding or grants. Now in its 18th year in Melbourne, Hatzolah has established a strong reputation assisting other emergency service groups. Our members are trained by Ambulance Victoria and we proudly wear their First Responder emblem on our uniforms. Hatzolah comes from the Hebrew word for “Rescue”.

Treating a patient from a push bike accident earlier this year – on the way to work.

When did you join Hatzolah?

I have been a member of Hatzolah for just on 10 years, undergoing two years of intensive training prior to going out on the road as a First Responder.

What is a first responder and why are you needed?

First Responders are trained in pre-hospital care for medical emergencies. Our role is to assist patients until Ambulance Victoria arrive on scene, then hand over to them, whilst continuing to assist in any way needed. Our response time to incidents is approximately 3 minutes from dispatch to arrival on scene – due mainly to the fact that our members live or work in the area. Servicing primarily (but not exclusively) the Jewish Community, we often know the patients and are able to assist in both social and medical areas.

What qualifications do First Responders have, and what equipment do you carry?

We are trained in Advanced Lifesaving, including CPR, Burns Management, Stroke Management, Drug and Alcohol Overdose, Mental Health, Paediatric Emergencies, Anaphylaxis, Respiratory Distress. I carry an automatic defibrillator, oxygen and airway management equipment, spinal collars, bandages, asthma, angina and pain relieve medication with me at all times. The equipment we carry can cost up to $10,000 per responder.

What is your role in Hatzolah?

Apart from being a responder (24/7), I also sit on the Board as the Finance Director, responsible for fundraising to purchase ongoing medical supplies.

How often do you go out on calls?

I average in excess of 250 calls a year – from attendance at motor vehicle accidents, to searching for missing elderly people, to sporting injuries, strokes and full arrests. A call may take 20 minutes, or, as I experienced last week, four hours! We also are fortunate to have the opportunity to have volunteer shifts with both road crews and MICA Response Ambulances.

Michael is a Solutions Specialist for Telstra Country Wide.

Chris Hill

Volunteered at Fareshare in Abbotsford

The Telstra Property Reporting team spent a day volunteering at Fareshare in Abbotsford. Sixteen members chopped, cracked eggs and stirred their way to making 738 quiches, packing over 1000 sausage rolls and contributed to the 10,000 meals delivered by Fareshare each week to Victoria’s homeless.

All the ingredients are fresh and donated by a number of organisations that would normally end up in a land fill or have to be otherwise destroyed. The reason we selected Fareshare for our volunteering was that it is grassroots, hands on volunteering. The meals you make in the industrial kitchens are taken that night and donated to other Not-For-Profit organisations for distribution at their nightly soup kitchens. The quiches are easily eaten by hand and are a popular favourite, being both hot and nutritious.

We even got to try the meals during one of our breaks and found them surprisingly tasty!

Chris is a Property Reporting Analyst for Business Support and Improvement