And volunteers all agree you get back much more than you give. Mark Schofield organises a dedicated team of mothers and fathers to clean up twice a term at St Francis Xavier Catholic Primary School, Arncliffe. “I have two kids here, it’s nice for them to have clean grounds to play in and the kids see you help out and do something for someone else,” said Mr Schofield.
The New South Wales Government town planner has two sons at the school – Xavier Schofield in Year 4 and Dominic Schofield in Year 2. He organises teams of parents to clean the grounds, gardens and school hall twice a term – and finish with a coffee and egg and bacon roll at a nearby cafe. “When you’re new it’s quite difficult to meet people, volunteering you meet people across the school,” he said.
Michael McGrath is a grandparent of three students at St Brendan’s Catholic Primary School Annandale. He’s been reading to the Year 1 students for six years, two days a week. Dr McGrath, known as “Poppy” to the students, is also a vascular physician at St Vincent’s Hospital three days a week. He says he started reading to the students as a way of keeping in touch with his grandchildren who attend the school, and supporting his daughter and son-in-law.
“I think of it as a reward, I don’t think of it as volunteering,” said Dr McGrath who’s grandfather to Anna Millward Year 5, Lara Millward Year 3, Shea Millward Year 1 and Asha Milward who joins Kindergarten in 2016. “I wish more grandparents would be involved with schools,” he said.
Dr McGrath has also run a numeracy intervention group at the school for students struggling with mathematics. He liaises with the class teacher each week on the reading content and then sits with a group of readers in the classroom, while the teacher works with other groups in the room. “I also send them off to the library to bring back a book. I don’t care if they read the same book each week, it’s all about giving them confidence,” he said.
Three women give time and care in three ways at Domremy College Five Dock. Margaret Orland has worked in the school canteen for many years and, with her husband Michael Orland, they volunteer their sound and lighting company for the school musicals. Trish Carey, the former Head of HSIE, has worked every week in the school archives for ten years since retiring from Domremy. She says her volunteering in the archives is “a privilege”.
“It’s the hidden information, it’s such a generous story and Catholic education is built on generosity,” she said. Lola Tasende is an Old Girl who has worked in the canteen regularly. Her daughter Raquel Prieto is in Year 9 and her other daughter Melani Prieto is in Year 7. “It’s primarily to give a hand but you get to know the teachers, students, parents – you become community,” said Ms Tasende.