2019 NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards: Blue Mountains/Outer Western Sydney and Central Sydney

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Leep had the opportunity to attend the 2019 NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards for Blue Mountains/Outer Western Sydney and Central Sydney regions. The event highlighted the passion and commitment of the hundreds of volunteers who are putting in so much work towards helping their communities. The volunteer finalists are invited to the Gala State Ceremony later in the year where the overall NSW Volunteer of the Year will be celebrated. The yearly program is hosted by The Centre for Volunteering and is recognised as the largest celebrations of volunteering in Australia.

Leep had the opportunity to meet Mohammad Rifai and his delightful and very proud parents. Mohammad received the Young Volunteer of the Year award in the region. He shared with us his journey as a young volunteer.


2019 NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards: Young Volunteer of the Year recipient

My name is Mohammad Rifai and I recently had the honor of being recognized as the Blue Mountains + Outer Western Sydney’s Young Volunteer of the Year for my work with the Story Factory!

My volunteering with the Story Factory began earlier this year when one night, I took it to spontaneously email the Story Factory – an organization I loosely read about on a blog – to see if they were taking student volunteers (which they were)! Currently, I am a Year 12 HSC student at St Mary’s Senior High and whilst the HSC is in itself super-duper hard, the subject I found most daunting and hard to approach was English, specifically creative writing. So, after school whenever I could, I took it to volunteer with the factory after reflecting on how little I explored creative writing and reading as a child.

The workshops at the Story Factory are ones designed for young children from marginalized backgrounds. My role has seen me engage closely with students who have for long lacked a supportive and audible platform in which to write. Whilst an oftentimes challenging position with demanding or disinterested children, watching their growth across the duration of our workshops into becoming young, confident and brave writers has really opened me up to appreciating the value that supportive social platforms have for people, especially young ones in reaching their full creative potentials.

My time with the factory has seen me assist students of a multitude of backgrounds from across Sydney to write news articles, poems, short stories… and their extraordinary capacities for abstract thought and literary innocence have remarkably shaped my outlook toward writing and volunteering so much so, my final creative writing piece in English was heavily centered around the topic of suppression of creative writing among children.

Beyond my HSC, I intend to start a Bachelor of Planning at Macquarie University next year. My hope is that my studies alongside my time volunteering with the Story Factory (which I see no end to) will continue to shape the world around me for the better!

– Mohammad Rifai

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