Bolwarra Heights' own Hayley Johns has been named NSW Hunter Young Volunteer of the Year for her involvement with the National Rural Health Student Network and St Johns Ambulance at Maitland.
The Centre for Volunteering hosted a digital awards ceremony on Friday, October 1 to recognise the outstanding effort of volunteers working throughout the state.
Ms Johns said she was initially drawn to volunteering to meet people in the community and get a sense of belonging, and has gained a lot of personal growth and confidence along the way.
"I've always been passionate about helping people and trying to have a positive impact if possible and I feel like volunteering aligns with those values and goals," she said.
In other news:
Ms Johns studies Podiatry at the University of Newcastle and uses her volunteer positions in the health field to gain valuable experience in the health field.
"It has been a great opportunity to have a positive impact within the community while meeting new people, learning new skills and gaining that real world experience being health related, similar to my study at uni," Ms Johns said.
Ms Johns' work for the Rural Health Student Network involves supporting other rural health clubs Australia-wide as the allied health officer, where she promotes opportunities, plans and hosts councils and promotes scholarships.
In addition to this, Ms Johns is a first responder with the St John Ambulance Maitland, where she volunteers her time at various events (COVID permitting) and provides first aid, calls an ambulance when required and monitors patients.
"Volunteering is a great opportunity for people to challenge themselves. If it doesn't challenge you then it doesn't change you and in my experience the more I've challenged myself the more I've grown from that as a person, and being able to help others while doing it is really special," she said.
Ms Johns is grateful to receive the award and said it's still sinking in.
"There are a lot of young volunteers in the Hunter region who are doing amazing work.
"If anything it's a good opportunity for me to represent youth and encourage youth to get involved as a volunteer, there might be more to volunteering than people think."
Ms Johns' volunteering journey began when she was in High School, after she started volunteering in community radio and the State Emergency Service.
This was a part of the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award, a youth development program that sees young people performing voluntary service.
In 2020, Ms Johns won the Maitland Showgirl Competition and from that role was nominated Maitland City Council's Youth Ambassador.
In this role, Ms Johns helps with leadership activities and youth events around Maitland.
The NSW Hunter Young Volunteer of the Year announcement comes after the release of the NSW State of Volunteering Report, which found that volunteers contribute more than $127 billion to NSW annually in social and economic benefits.
It was also found that the 4.9 million volunteers in NSW contributed 1.5 billion hours to their communities in the past year.
Do you know you can subscribe to get full access to all Maitland Mercury stories? Subscribing supports us in our local news coverage. To subscribe, click here.