Young achievers celebrate community and personal benefit

FOR 28-year-old Xiaoxiao Xu, volunteering is what makes community stick together.

“Volunteering helps build community because it connects us easily,” she said.

“Especially through very hard situations like COVID-19, it makes the community stick together and work to the same goal.”

Last month at the Young Achievers’ Awards, held at Wrest Point, Xiaoxiao’s volunteering contributions were recognised when she was awarded Semi-Finalist of the Heather and Christopher Chong Community Service & Volunteering Award.

“It’s a really significant acknowledgement – when I received the email, I thought wow, what an encouragement,” she said.

While Xiaoxiao volunteers across various short and long-term projects, one volunteering experience she particularly remembered was the Red Cross’ Social Circles program, which focuses on the wellbeing of older community members – especially those with irregular social contact.

“The lady I would visit is an amazing lady,” Xiaoxiao said.

“She writes poetry, and actually expected me to read poetry with her because she had difficulty reading.”

As an international student from China who hadn’t seen her family in more than two years, Xiaoxiao said the Social Circles program was the avenue to forming a valuable connection.

“I would tell her when I had a job interview, and she would literally hug me,” she said.

“I’m far from my own home, but she gave me that sense of belonging and community.

“Volunteering helps with networking if you’re meeting people with different backgrounds or across different ages, you can really learn a lot,” she said.

Since 1989, The Tasmanian Young Achiever Awards have promoted and supported positive achievements of young people.

Xiaoxiao said she was inspired when hearing stories from other finalists at the awards ceremony and did not expect to be named a semi-finalist.

“I’m just one tiny break of the community – I’m just doing what I think is valuable,” she said.

Xiaoxiao said the awards helped acknowledge volunteers for what they themselves may not realise are significant community contributions.

“Like the elderly lady I used to visit, she would say to me, ‘you don’t realise the impact of what you have done for me,’” she said.

Xiaoxiao said in receiving the award, she was “definitely inspired to do more and go further.”

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