No stranger to the benefits of volunteering,  twenty-something Azka Hameed puts her hand up as often as possible. Nevertheless, she was surprised at one of the benefits of volunteering as a gardener for Sydney Community Services teamwork on  Sydney’s north shore.

“I am not much of a gardener and I always want to pick up new skills. I also wanted to give back to the community. The third benefit, which I hadn’t expected, was the variety of people. You hear many different life stories and get such different perspectives on life.  Otherwise you mix with your usual friends all the time – but this is different,” she says. “I also enjoy getting around to different suburbs I’d not normally visit.”

Azka decided to take leave from her office job to write, travel, and “try different things”, and has enjoyed volunteering in the past so wanted to include it in the mix. It’s a bit of a drive from her home to meet in the areas serviced by the gardening team around North Sydney and Mosman through to Lane Cove, Ryde and Hunters Hill … but Azka says “it’s worth the trip”.

 This Easter, she’ll be travelling in southern Africa, and will be volunteering there too – with an environmental group working on wildlife conservation. Azka believes more young people should be alert to the benefits of volunteering which, she says, is extremely underestimated.

“You really do get something back as a volunteer: you can perform a minor gesture and it makes people happy which makes you feel great. Also I’ve learned a lot of skills when volunteering, and met and networked with all sorts of people.”

For information on SCS gardening services, look on our website here