WINDSOR’S Rhiannon Williams has been named Youth Volunteer of the Year for the Hornsby and North West Sydney regions in the annual Volunteer of the Year Awards.
The 18-year-old Windsor High School student has been volunteering since she began Year 7, and has now spent countless hours raising funds and helping-out in the community.
When the Gazette asked her why she does what she does, she said her biggest inspiration was her mother.
“She’s always put other people before herself. My mum goes above and beyond. She does so much more than I have ever done and she doesn’t do it to be recognised,” she said.
Rhiannon began by attending to the school’s goats twice a week before school, then on weekends and school holidays as well.
Fundraising is her speciality: she raised enough money to attend two G’Day USA school excursions, sold raffle tickets at the Windsor Rotary Charity Race Day, and raised money for the Windsor High School P&C on a number of occasions.
She is the only student who attends P&C meetings, and the numerous hours at weekends and after school she has spent selling raffle tickets have really paid off for the school.
“I haven’t been doing as much this year as it’s my HSC year and so I took a step back so I could focus on getting the ATAR I wanted,” Rhiannon said.
“But last year we were selling raffle tickets at Windsor RSL, the dog track at Londonderry, Pitt Town Sporties, and Lynwood [Country Club in Pitt Town], for weekends at a time.”
As a result of Rhiannon’s efforts – as well as those of the other P&C recruits, including her mum – the school was able to purchase musical equipment and other classroom resources. This year, their goal is to raise enough money to buy air conditioning for the school hall.
“It is very rewarding knowing I’ve put in all this effort and all the funds go back into my school so I can see what comes out of my efforts. It is good for confidence, as selling raffle tickets you have to talk to and approach strangers,” she said.
Rhiannon is a member of the school’s Student Wellbeing Awareness Team (SWAT), and helped organise activities and raise awareness about mental health for R U OK? Day and Wellbeing Week.
“Mental health is a rising issue and we’re trying to get rid of the stigma around it, and make sure kids are aware of where they can go if they are feeling down,” she said.
“It is something I have experienced on a personal level with quite a few of my friends. If you don’t experience those sort of things, you don’t think it’s such a big deal, but watching people go through it first hand, it opens your eyes up to how much it really impacts people’s lives.”
Rhiannon has been a Legacy Badge seller for the past three years, and in 2016 she cut her hair short and donated it to the Starlight Foundation to make wigs for alopecia sufferers. She also helps-out at St Matthew’s Anglican Church in Windsor and Windsor Swim Club, and has volunteered at the Salvation Army.
Next year, she hopes to do a communications and arts degree at university: “I’m sure I’ll volunteer in some way there,” she said.
The NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards is an annual awards program run by the Centre for Volunteering to recognise the outstanding efforts of volunteers and promote the importance of volunteering to the community.
Rhiannon and winners from 19 other regions are now in the running to win overall Youth Volunteer of the Year (up to 24 years old) at an awards ceremony in December.
Also from the Hawkesbury, Lynette Dunn of Hawkesbury’s Helping Hands in Richmond will compete for Senior Volunteer of the Year (65+ years).
Rhiannon might have to skip the awards evening, however, due to her volunteering commitments.
“I’m currently in the Hawkesbury-Hills Student Leadership Programme, and I’m going to be in Darwin! We volunteer in a school over there,” she said.
In her spare time, Rhiannon likes being creative. “I go and do art at Karinaglen Art & Craft in Windsor. I started off painting, then mixed mediums, then watercolours, and I’ve just started using a pallet knife. It’s something I really enjoy - it’s my downtime,” she said.
Earlier this year, Rhiannon was named Young Citizen of the Year at the 2017 Hawkesbury Australia Day Awards.