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What does it take to be a volunteer?

21 May 2020

Two ladies are serving food

We spoke to P&C President at Farrer Primary School, Judi Barton about her experience with the P&C and what it takes to be a volunteer.

Can you tell us a little about the P&C?

P&Cs run community activities that support the schools, such as Out of School Hours Care, canteens and uniform shops. We provide support for parents and we work in partnership with schools to achieve their strategic plans. We also do a lot of fundraising for activities, capital works and educational resources.  At Farrer Primary School P&C we see ourselves as being an integral part of the support for the school. Anything we can do to help, we’ll do it.

Can you tell us a little bit about your own experience with the P&C?

I’ve been on the FPS P&C for two years. I grew up in a family that was always in schools, my father was a senior science teacher and my mum was a lab tech, so I’ve seen the benefit and value that the community can provide. It was a no brainer to get involved when my kids went to primary school. Initially, I joined because I had taken on the uniform shop, but at the first meeting I attended, I was asked to take on the Vice President role! I was happy to do it, knowing there was an experienced President (now ACT P&C council president) and that my role would be to support her.

What do you like most about being a part of the P&C?

I love the people, the staff, the parents, the kids. I think having a strong relationship with the school is a great benefit and having the privilege to be a part of the decision making and being able to help shape the school.  I also really like the people that I’m on the P&C with, we’ve got a nice group of motivated people that genuinely share the same vision for supporting the school. We’re all from diverse backgrounds and we represent a cross section of the community, we’ve got people on posting, people who have children with a higher level of needs and people from both the Senior and Junior School.

Can you tell us about what you have achieved with the P&C?

Last year we helped the school shift to a more sustainable model for school resources. Previously, parents paid for a school pack with stationary, which all came packaged in plastic and was based on an annual estimate, for example, 1800 glue sticks were ordered.  None of it was recyclable, not all was used within a year and parents needed clarity around labelling and delivery. We saw an opportunity to reduce the wasted money and resources, so we worked with the school to develop a model that better suited parents and teachers. It led to a lower cost upfront and meant the school was less wasteful. Our school has a very strong sustainability program, so this change was in line with our school’s vision, but also with parents’ needs. They appreciated not having not having to lug their box of books in on the first day, as you can imagine, when you’ve got multiple kids it was quite a challenge!

We’re working to do more than the usual sausage sizzle and cake stall. We’ve run some cool activities over the past year, including a clothing swap. Parents donated clothing and then we had a night where they could come in, have a glass of wine and grab a new wardrobe, which we’re planning to repeat again this year. Last year we learnt so much and the community learnt with us, we’ve really started to achieve some fantastic fundraising outcomes.

Why do you think it’s important to volunteer?

It takes a village to raise a child (and do almost anything else!). I grew up in a family of people who were always volunteering within the community, and it’s something that I’ve actively made a part of my life. Volunteering exposes me to a much more diverse group of people that I wouldn’t have been able to connect to in any other part of my life. I think that schools are so busy, so the more that parents can create a supportive village for schools to operate in, the better. The school staff need our support, in the good times and the bad, which is something that we as the community can provide. Farrer Primary School really is the heart of our suburb, most of the kids in our community go to Farrer, the kids all play there on the weekend, it’s important that we as a community are there to give back and provide that support.

What would you say to parents who are considering joining their P&C?

Volunteer within your capacity. Think about your life and how volunteering might fit into it, maybe you’re a good administrator, or you have plenty of time to give, maybe you own a business or you’re good at working with tools. That diversity of skills and experience is so important to the P&C. It’s as simple as reaching out to your P&C and saying, “I have x and Y skills, how can I help?” They’ll know you’re there and that they can reach out to you when that requirement exists. It shouldn’t be a burden; we know that some families don’t have capacity and that is ok. The P&C welcomes volunteers in all shapes and sizes. Whether you can give 1 hour a year, or 1 hour a day, all is valued.