Meet Char – our Gen Z volunteer!

Char Hunter, volunteer at Northcote op shop
Char Hunter Volunteer
24 January 2023
Char Hunter, volunteer at Northcote op shop
“I’m not out there saving the world, but I’m helping one person.”

For the last year, 25-year-old volunteer Char (they/them) has called Sacred Heart Mission their home, volunteering primarily in the Northcote op shop. As a young person trying to find their place in the community, Char tells us about the importance of volunteering in their life, and how to get involved.  

I got my first job in the fast-food industry at 15, like many other teenagers, and since then I’ve done a range of different jobs – some better than others! But I can honestly say that volunteering at Sacred Heart Mission is the best, most rewarding job I’ve ever had. I go home every day smiling, knowing I’ve put some good out into the world. Though I also need to earn an income, there is and will always be a place in my life for volunteering too – and there can be for you as well! 

My decision to start volunteering wasn’t an easy one. Like many young people, I am studying full-time, and need to support myself financially while thinking about how to best prepare for my future and develop skills to boost my career prospects. A volunteer role in Sacred Heart Mission’s op shops was the perfect fit to incorporate all my priorities, and it’s so much fun! 

Char Hunter, volunteer at Northcote op shop

The flexible nature of volunteering at Sacred Heart Mission’s op shops allows me to schedule shifts around my other commitments.  Sacred Heart Mission fosters a close-knit community, which has helped me secure work placements to develop career skills and even get university credit for my volunteering! And the friends I have made, I will take with me for the rest of my life.  

For me, choosing a homelessness charity to volunteer with is my way of giving back to the community who had given so much to my family. My mum spent a year homeless, with all her belongings inside her beaten up 1992 Toyota Corolla. When thinking about volunteering, I wanted to work for an organisation that supports people in similar situations to her. I applied to Sacred Heart Mission and began volunteering within the week.  

There is a misconception that young people are only interested in themselves and not the wider world, but I can confidently say that is not true of most of my peers. Rather, we have lots of competing demands on our time – we need to support ourselves and develop careers that will fulfil us. We care about a sustainable world and social justice issues, but we also need time for self-care. So how can volunteering fit into our lives?

What can one person hope to do? 

Growing up I had fanciful ideals of saving the world, but the older I got, and the more I learnt about the challenges facing our world, it became overwhelming to find a way to do my bit. It’s so easy to get disheartened, with all the injustices in society clawing and vying for attention. 

I struggled to find my place in society when there was so much to do and seemingly so little time. It was then that I realised while I couldn’t do everything, I could dedicate my time to one issue and found goals that were achievable.  

I had a customer come up to me in the middle of winter at the Northcote op shop. He was clutching a beanie in his pocket and apprehensively asked if he could exchange his beanie for a waterproof jacket. I looped in the Store Coordinator, and we agreed that the man could keep his beanie, take the jacket, stay safe, and have a wonderful day. I’m not out there saving the world, but I’m helping one person. One person’s winter will be made just that much easier because I was able to be kind. 

The strength of Generation Z 

Generation Z has many challenges – especially the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the rapid move to remote work and study, social inequality, rising costs of living and a tight housing market and the increasingly volatile climate.  

We are the generation of change, whether we like it or not. In these ‘unprecedented times’, we are the generation that have known no different. 

I believe we will become the leaders of change, becoming the driving force for our community to grow, adapt, and thrive. Our society is moving so fast, I don’t want to forget about what gets left behind. At Northcote, I see first-hand the tonnes and tonnes of clothing that are saved from the tip and instead given a new home. Volunteering in the op shop, I am doing my part in raising money for people in need, while simultaneously promoting sustainable consumption in our community.  

As one of the oldest of Generation Z, I am about to graduate and enter full-time work and I know that my experience volunteering with Sacred Heart Mission has laid the foundations for a successful career and a life of being a contentious community member.  

In my opinion, the world could use some more heart from us – and we’re out there ready to share it! 

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