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In Conversation with Convent Volunteer Anouk Dijkman

Why did you begin volunteering with the Abbotsford Convent?

Last July I moved to Australia to complete an exchange semester at RMIT. Once my exchange finished, I had two months of holidays left before leaving Australia, and although I do enjoy my free time, I’m also someone who gets restless when I have no plans ahead of me. Usually people in a similar situation would go on a road trip around Australia, but I started feeling at home in Melbourne and felt like there was a lot more left to discover. I do love travelling but I also believe that working in a new environment or other similar new experiences are sometimes more valuable than seeing new landscapes. A friend had introduced me to the Abbotsford Convent earlier in the year and I was immediately charmed by the Convent’s atmosphere. When I started looking for ways to make my free time in Melbourne productive, I immediately thought of the Convent’s volunteering programs as the perfect way to get on board with a new experience.

What are some of the surprising things you’ve learnt during your time as a volunteer with the Abbotsford Convent?

Although I loved the volunteering programs, I took part in at the Convent as a whole What stood out most was how remarkably engaged, enthusiastic and thoughtful the volunteer coordinators were. Even after completing my volunteer placement, they still surprised me with their generosity by helping me to find an internship and connecting me with some of their contacts.

You’ve volunteered with our programming team to help present different productions. Where do you hope experience in this field will take you, or assist in your developing career?

My professional background is in industrial design engineering, and for me it was especially valuable to see how different people interact with different installations, as I’m particularly interested in user experience design. I also discovered how much I like to work with children and how resourceful and surprising they are. I’ve always believed in the value of working in a multitude of different contexts to explore where my interests lie, and to see which professional environments I’d like to work in in the future.

What other opportunities have been opened up to you from volunteering?

When the volunteering team heard I was looking for an internship within the field of design, they immediately offered their help and support. Thanks to them, I am now doing an inspiring internship with Convent-based jeweller, Katheryn Leopoldseder.

Tell us a bit more about your internship with Katheryn Leopoldseder. What are you hoping to learn from the experience?

My experience with Katheryn Leopoldseder has been really great and enriching so far. In addition to being a very warm hearted and welcoming person, I love working with her because each day is different and insightful. In the few weeks I’ve been there, I’ve learnt about different aspects of the trade varying from running your own business, something I haven’t been able to explore much in my studies, to more design-related areas, such as modern production techniques and how they can be combined with Katheryn’s craftsmanship. Although some aspects maybe do not seem to directly relate to industrial design, they are all valuable to learn about for the day I open up my own business.

What’s the biggest perk of being a volunteer?

To me the biggest perk of being a volunteer is that you develop new skills in fields you otherwise might never have been exposed to. I’ve always found it important to look past my study environment, and volunteering at the Abbotsford Convent has been a great way of doing so. Although I did not anticipate this aspect of it when I started, it has also proven to be a great way of making new connections.

A lot of volunteer-run or assisted organisations find difficulty in attracting new and younger volunteers. What words of encouragement would you give to people your age about becoming a volunteer?

Volunteering for me has always been an enriching experience and I would definitely recommend it. In the past I have found myself hesitating in getting involved in volunteering because I wasn’t sure about what it would bring me. In hindsight, I have always found an aspect of my volunteer experiences that led to personal growth. Whether it is to discover new fields and interests, learning about how to adapt to different professional environments or even just to make new connections and meet people with similar interests, it has always been a win-win situation.

Has volunteering helped create a sense of community for you?

Volunteering at the Abbotsford Convent and the opportunities it opened up for me has made the Convent a place where I feel particularly at ease and at home. As a foreigner in a new city, I think having such spaces where I can feel as at ease as I feel at the Convent is incredibly valuable and I am very thankful for this.

The Convent currently has 102 volunteers who take part in all manner of activities including gardening, hosting historic tours, delivering our special events, and assisting our contemporary art gallery. We would like to thank everyone who supports us with their time and incredible effort.

If you would like to volunteer in exciting programs such as Convent Kids and Convent Live, please contact our volunteer team.