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When our Recreation team needed extra support to run school holiday programs for children with disabilities on the Northern Beaches in mid-2018, we had an idea.

After discovering that Macquarie University runs a Professional and Community Engagement (PACE) program for students, we decided to run a trial to see if volunteers or PACE students were a better fit to help with the program.

We recruited two volunteers and two PACE students with the aim of testing which of the two groups were more appropriate supports for the Recreation team. We also wanted to see if there were any differences, advantages or disadvantages of having a volunteer versus a student, and if this approach would be sustainable going forward.


The results were very encouraging

The school holiday trial showed that both students and volunteers performed equally well and were a great source of support for the Recreation team.

Having students and volunteers engaging with the kids promoted positive and inclusive interactions. Both groups brought skills with them from their own lives, which was a real bonus, and were good models of appropriate behaviour for the kids.

The families were appreciative because of the high levels of engagement. They could see the volunteers and students engaging and interacting with the children straight away, giving the recreational team more time to complete essential admin tasks. They were also able to structure conversations in a way that gave everyone a chance to participate.

They were all critical thinkers, too, asking insightful questions of our Recreation team, which in turn prompted them to reflect on, and improve, our service.


Future plans

As a result of the trial, we saw that the idea of recruiting both PACE students and volunteers to support our Recreation team is feasible. The team has since engaged several more volunteers and PACE students and plan to continue using both avenues to support their programs for the foreseeable future. We also ran the program again from January 7th to January 25th 2019 with two students from Macquarie University assisting and had great results.

They were all critical thinkers, too, asking insightful questions of our Recreation team, which in turn prompted them to reflect on, and improve, our service.


Community participation and recreation

The Northern Beaches School Holiday program is part of our Community Participation and Recreation program. Other programs include social groups for young men and women, and a fitness and gym group..

The aim of these programs is to provide people of all ages with quality opportunities to make the most of their leisure time. We provide small group experiences that give participants the chance to make new friends and socialise with people their own age. At the same time, they get the opportunity to try out a range of activities in and around Sydney.


Our Student Placement program

At The Benevolent Society we believe it is important to share our knowledge and expertise with students to build a skilled workforce. We provide a wide variety of student placement opportunities across our services and programs where students can put theoretical learning into workplace practice.

The Specialist Placement and Recruitment Unit (SPAR) is located within our People, Learning and Engagement team and supports student supervisors and managers. You can contact us at spar@benevolent.org.au

If you have a number of people looking for these types of opportunities, or a client you think might fit into one of our existing groups, please contact us via the Benevolent Society Customer Care Line on 1800 236 762. We can also help with your NDIS package.