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Finding meaning through volunteering brings mental health rewards

Posted 8 Sep 2021

Mentally Healthy WA has released another video in their storytelling series Words to Live By – a special collection of videos which give life lessons on the mental health benefits of keeping active, belonging to your community, and committing to something meaningful.

Words to Live By showcases the inspiring stories of senior Western Australians whose lives encapsulate the power of the Act Belong Commit mental health message.

The new video focuses on Shelley McGinn, a former teacher who emigrated from England, who now lives in Wanneroo and has thrown herself into volunteering at the Spring Hill Primary School in Tapping.

Shelley’s volunteering efforts are coordinated by EdConnect Australia, a charity that trains, supports and places volunteers in local schools to improve the lives of students who might otherwise struggle to realise their potential – in school and life. In 2020, EdConnect Australia coordinated 1,334 skilled volunteered to help over 13,000 students in classrooms across Australia.

Each year EdConnect Australia surveys their volunteers on the personal benefits of their volunteering. It comes as no surprise that an overwhelming majority of EdConnect volunteers (85%) believe their volunteering “has enhanced their mental health and wellbeing” while 86% said it helped them “feel more connected to their community”.

Shelley is a testament to the power of intergenerational relationships and the mental health benefits they provide.

“Coming back into schools has enlivened me. It’s given me another reason to be. I don’t have children myself, so it fills in very nicely for me where children might have been in my life.”

“It was the principles of Act Belong Commit, particularly belonging to a community that made me think that EdConnect would be good for me, and another area in which I could give.

“If you’re thinking of becoming a volunteer, just do it. There are so many benefits to you, and to the children that you will encounter.”

Shelley McGinn

Previous videos in the series have focussed on the stories and backgrounds of:

  • Segun Olowoyo is the eldest of six children and after the death of his father, emigrated with his family from Nigeria. Although blind Segun finds purpose in learning at the library and is passionately engaged in the community of the City of Stirling.
  • Daljit Dhillon is a former engineer from India, a cancer survivor and a leader in the Perth Sikh community, which is where he finds his comfort and strength.
  • Doris Hill is the eldest of a large Aboriginal family, a Curtin alumni and continues to study to keep mentally active. Doris lives next door to her grandson and his husband – family is where she belongs.

“Personal stories have a special power and we believe Segun, Doris, Shelley and Daljit will inspire others to consider their own lifestyles, and whether they could do more for their own mental health.”

Associate Professor Christina Pollard – Director of Curtin University’s Mentally Healthy WA

Words to Live By videos have been released and shared across multiple platforms including SBS, social media and through Act Belong Commit and Partner networks and online channels.

Check out the new video here.