Serving our country, serving our community
Serving On is now a national volunteering program that aims to provide service personnel the skills, opportunities and support to continue to serve through purposeful work and impactful projects that help people and communities. Following the success of 2018, what was initially a NSW based pilot program, is now fully fledged and is planned to expand to other states, Canberra and Melbourne being the next two in 2019.
There are approximately 5,000 contemporary veterans in NSW in receipt of DVA benefits. The total number of contemporary veterans and other service personnel in the state however, is much higher. Despite significant improvements in the range of support services available, many contemporary servicemen and women still struggle to find meaningful work, social connection and purpose after their service. As a result, service personnel can become socially isolated and unable to find ways to connect with, and contribute to, the community. This can lead to, or exacerbate, other issues including mental health conditions.
Since founding in 2012, Soldier On has received many enquiries from service personnel and their family members who want to volunteer and today, continue to receive these enquiries on a regular basis.
Serving On was developed to meet this need and provide volunteer opportunities for service personnel to continue to serve. The program is informed by a very successful organisation launched in the USA, The Mission Continues, which has supported and provided opportunities for thousands of veterans across North America since it was founded 10 years ago.
In 2018, over 100 volunteer veterans from the Sydney region expressed an interest in joining the program and 78 participated in the different community projects and volunteer events. In the near future, selected veteran volunteers will be trained to the roles of project team leaders and will eventually take on the day-to-day planning and management of the projects.
How to Support
During the pilot phase in 2017-18, Serving On’s set up, operation and administration was supported by volunteers and pro bono support from Rotary members and Soldier On. Operating and administration costs for projects, as well as staff costs for specialist skills not available from volunteers, was funded through the Rotary Club of Sydney fundraising and one-off donations from friends and supporters.
With Sydney Rotary’s’ commitment now concluded, Soldier On will be seeking a small number of corporate partners and individual donors to support the longer-term development and growth of Serving On, with the hope that it can continue to grow and operate in other locations across Australia.
Objectives of Serving On are:
- Support social connection of contemporary service personnel who may otherwise face exclusion and loss of social networks;
- Offer the opportunity to continue to contribute to society and community through purposeful volunteer work and value adding projects;
- Assist with reintegration and employment opportunities by providing skills and experience while working alongside professionals and community leaders;
- Promote the public image of contemporary service personnel as valuable and contributing members of their communities.
PROJECTS – 2018
June: Macquarie Community College
The Macquarie Community College provides important training for newly arrived migrants and disadvantage locals with English and literacy training, job seekers and underemployed people who face barriers to learning or workforce participation are assisted with getting into the workforce, students with a declared disability – including intellectual and learning disabilities, physical and mental health issues are helped in their pursuit of qualification(s), and last but not least, people over 50 are helped to re-skill themselves or learn a new pastime.
There are a variety of tasks that the Serving On team will complete around the school that the Community College has struggled to do without funding. The main activity will be to mend and paint the front fence to keep the school secure.
July: Working with Sydney Homeless Connect
Sydney Homeless Connect is a not-for-profit charity that has been providing support services for homeless individuals for nine years. Once a year, over 70 service providers including Centrelink, social welfare and legal aid donate their time on the day to give services free of charge to Sydney’s homeless. The Serving On team will be helping to provide food for over 4000 homeless people in attendance on the day.
July: Army Engineering Museum
The new museum in the Holsworthy Army Barracks has local veteran volunteers doing a myriad of projects. The Serving On team will be rebuilding a WW2 Bailey Bridge to put on display in the museum at a later date.
August: The Salvation Army
The Salvos in Australia are well known for their fantastic work in caring for disadvantaged people and building healthy communities. The Serving On team will be turning the tables and giving them a hand instead, helping them set up their new facility in Rouse Hill Sydney where people can connect and access much needed services.
September: Mama Lana’s Community Foundation
Mama Lana’s Community Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation that provides assistance to the homeless and underprivileged people in the Penrith community to advance their wellbeing and prospects for future independence. The Serving On team will be helping to construct a children’s playhouse, to be used by the many families who use the centre whilst getting the vital assistance that the Foundation provides.
October: Invictus Games
The Invictus Games Family and Friends will be holding a “Welcome to Sydney” Family Day and BBQ on October 19. This event will include over 350 Family and Friends of the Invictus competitors from around the world, plus 50 VIP guests. Its aim is to provide the family and supporters of Invictus competitors with a warm welcome to Sydney with a day out on the Harbour, while their loved ones are away rehearsing for the opening ceremony.
The Serving On team will be involved with the preparation, running, and then packing up, of the event to ensure all the guests have a great time.
Also in October: War Widows Walk and Picnic
Since 2002 the Kokoda Track Memorial Walkway, near Concord Hospital has been the venue for the annual War Widows Walk. The War Widows Guild organises this event annually to highlight the physical and mental benefits of improved mobility and promoting gentle exercise. The Serving On team will be setting up for the day, assist with serving morning tea and taking water around to the war widows, assist serving lunch, provide assistance with transport arrivals and departures and provide an arm for frail members on the Kokoda Memorial Walking Track. For more information head to their website.
November: Mt Druitt Adventist Church
The Mt Druitt Adventist Church does tremendous work in an area of Sydney that has severe disadvantage. It offers many different services to the community including feeding the homeless, healthy eating to exercise and spiritual needs . The Serving On team will be doing a variety of tasks including pulling down their old kitchen so renovations can take place, putting down a slab of concrete (this will be mixed by hand) and also working in their community vegetable garden as well as wrapping Xmas presents.
December: Anglicare Aged Home
Christmas is usually a great time to get together with family and friends to celebrate. Unfortunately, this can also be an extremely lonely time for many people but for the elderly this is especially so. Often with no family, they can really struggle. For our last project of the year, the Serving On team will be joining the elderly residents of The Ponds, Anglicare Aged Home to help brighten the village not only with decorations but with their presence. We’ll be doing some craft work assembling Xmas decorations and then helping to put them up around the village.
Projects – 2019
January: RSL Lifecare
The Serving On team is back helping out the community! This month we are helping out at the new Veterans Equine Welfare Program facility, run by RSL Lifecare. This fantastic program helps veterans who have been impacted by their service by offering them a place of quiet reflection whilst engaging in activities that see the veterans taking care of, and riding, the horses. Engaging in activities with such a powerful yet gentle animal is a new experience for many service members, who soon find that the therapeutic benefits are beyond compare.
RSL Lifecare is setting up a new facility in Picton. This means they will need plenty of help to prepare a new rounding yard for the horses, prepare and paint the new veterans accommodation block, and help restore a historic picnic shelter. Later in the day, there will be an opportunity for the Serving On participants to experience horses up close and personal and do an introductory session.
March: Osborne Park RSL Sub-Branch
Serving On has now made it’s way to Perth! For our first project we will be assisting the Osbourne Park RSL Sub-Branch prepare for their 100th Year Anniversary.
We will be preparing the Sub-Branch for its ceremony with some fresh paint and a scrub.
April: Scouts Australia
The Serving On team will be joining Scouts Australia and Rotary Sydney to help refurbish their outdoor training facility at Challenge Valley. It was initially constructed in the 1980’s utilising personnel from the Army’s School of Engineering. The Army-styled obstacle course was initially constructed in the 1980’s with help from the Army’s School of Engineering and includes 15 different elements including: rope climbing, suspended ladders, water holes and mud pits along a 1.5km track. These elements test the user’s skills and capabilities such as balance, strength, self‐empowerment, and agility, and promote team work and initiative. As these elements are now approximately 30 years old and well worn, there is some work to be done to restore them to a safe and working order.
This activity will be run over two days, but feel free to attend either one day or both, enjoy a great day out in the open air as well as a free BBQ and help finish what the corps of Engineers started over 30 years ago. Even bring your family.