Want to live a longer, healthier and meaningful life? Volunteer!

Volunteering is the elixir of life!

While it may not grant the beholder with immortality, a 2012 study in the journal of Health Psychology has shown that people who regularly volunteer live longer lives. The one caveat to this elixir- like effect? Volunteers must volunteer for the inherent joy of volunteering, not just to reap benefits for themselves. And in the spirit of finding one’s joy, many would-be volunteers had the unique opportunity to connect with local organisations at the NSW Volunteering Expo held at the Liverpool Club.

 
Sititi Apoua, a volunteer at Dress for Work – a project run by Metro Assist which gives free, donated business attire to disadvantaged and marginalised men so they can attend job interviews – and one of the exhibitors at the Volunteering Expo, describes volunteering as her chance to help men with practical and immediate support. “Giving a suit to a person can make a world difference, from the way they present themselves to even how they stand – and this can mean the difference between succeeding at the interview or bombing out”. For Siititi, a volunteer veteran of five years, it is clear that she derives great pleasure from her weekly three-day stint at Dress for Work. “I love seeing the clients transform before our eyes – it is really wonderful to witness”. And this, it appears, is the key to obtaining the full benefits of volunteering – finding work that stokes one’s inner fire and truly inspires.

 

Unsurprisingly, the benefit of volunteering doesn’t just stop at increased lifespan. Additional studies highlight the phenomenon known as “helpers high” that derives from volunteering. Namely, participants often report feeling stronger and more energetic after helping others with many others reporting they also feel calmer and less depressed.
For Stiti, what started out as an opportunity to obtain experience with a local organisation has now turned into something far greater. “Working with other volunteers and staff together toward the same goal has been so rewarding – I really feel like the team is really my family”.  For Stiti, volunteering is a way of life and not something she plans to stop doing any time soon.

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Dress for Work launches at the Westmead Connectivity Centre

The not-for-profit project Dress for Work has launched at the Westmead Connectivity in a unique initiative spear-headed by the multi-national construction company, Multiplex. The centre is designed to bring together a range of training, employment and community organisations with the aim of providing collaborative and sustainable employment outcomes for marginalised and disadvantaged communities in Western Sydney.

Opened last month, Dress for Work  sits alongside Metro Assist’s  refugee and newly arrived migrant employment program, SkillMe  and has seen a number of clients through its doors from a range of service providers, including youth mental health services and job actives.

One client, Antonio, recently attended Dress for Work at its new Westmead site. An accountant by trade, Antonio had been experiencing a bout of unemployment and visited Dress for Work after being referred to the service by his Job Active Service as part of his employment preparation. “I was so happy with the service and was glad I could be fitted”.   The Guilford resident also spoke of the convenience of having the employments support service on his door-step, citing the 10 minute travel time it took to access the service.

The new Westmead showroom would not be possible without the hard work of the men and women from Aboriginal Employment Strategy and Fusion Training soultions who undertook the refurbishment of the center as part of their preconstruction training, including one young trainee Darrin Welsh. Darrin  was one of the first clients to  access the new DFW service in Westmead and was issued with a suit just  in time for the centre’s launch.

Sarah Issac, a Dress for Work volunteer at Westmead says “The new showroom is in  itself wonderful, but what makes it even greater is the ability to co-share the space with other not-for profits and charities who have been so supportive and welcoming”.

Aside from receiving a free suit, clients are also invited to participate in Dress for Work’s Job Readiness Training which covers a range of topics including employer expectations, presentation skills and job-seeking skills. And now that Dress for Work is located in the Westmead Connectivity Hub, clients have the added benefit of accessing employment opportunities as well as trainings provided by any one of the Centre’s partners. The collaborative environment of the Hub ultimately is a value-add for  clients accessing employment supports at the centre who may come for one particular service but leave with information about employment and training opportunities from several organisations, including Multiplex.

Along with Dress for Work, the Westmead Connectivity Centre is home to PCYC and Aboriginal Employment Strategy, as well as yourtown.

 

Dress for Work is located at the Westmead Connectivity Centre, 1 Dragonfly Drive Westmead. For appointments please call 8709 0200 or visit www.dressforwork.org.au  for more information.

To read more about Dress for Work at Westmead please take a look at a recent article featured in the Parramatta Advertiser.

 

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Darrin Welsh poses for a photo dressed in a jacket and tie with Sarah Isaac from Dress for Work at Westmead today, May 14, 2018. Dress for Work has launched at Westmead Connectivity and is helping clients get into the work force. (AAP Image/David Swift).

Dress for Work Transformations

It’s no secret at Dress for Work that we love a good ‘Before and After’. And our boutique showroom in Bankstown is no exception. Once a white, drab room devoid of any character or charm (or carpet for that matter!), the Dress for Work showroom has transformed over the last several months into an amazing space  which has now seen countless client transformations of its own.

The showroom itself evokes a feeling of a classic men’s store in uptown city centre, and clients are encouraged to see themselves as empowered individuals taking the first, crucial step in entering into the job market, rather than just individuals facing unemployment or other life difficulties. As a social work student, I feel privileged to observe the Dress for Work team adopt a client-centred approach with each and every client as they work to ensure everyone is respected and empowered when they enter the Dress for Work space.

One of the highlights of my placement has been witnessing the camaraderie amongst our groups as they enter the showroom for a fitting.  Young men who just minutes prior were aloof and shy,  now  channel their best  Anna Wintour  as they  exclaim “That tie is on point!” or “Wow, I love that European slim fit on you!”.  It has been both fulfilling (not to mention entertaining) to observe young male clients encourage each other with supportive feedback and share a few laughs in the process.

Ultimately, I believe it is a combination of the staff and the unique space that makes the Dress for Work experience such a memorable one for our clients. Everyone is made to feel comfortable  which is critical to establishing trust and rapport – the two elements that form the cornerstone of effective case management. Once trust and rapport are achieved, ascertaining the needs of the client often occurs organically, allowing us to effectively assist the client and refer them to other services if required.

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First In, Best Dressed

Never underestimate the power of a good suit. Just ask Dress for Work client, Con Karaiskakis from Sydney.

Con, a qualified accountant, experienced severe depression following the breakdown of his marriage. Although years have passed since the breakdown, Con continues to grapple with the host of mental health issues associated with the breakdown, including his inability to connect with his children.

For Con, it is clear that his children are his world. The breakdown led him on a downward spiral, including a complete loss of motivation and even at one point, homelessness.

Dress for Work is a not-for-profit organisation relying on the kind donations of the community to dress men who are in financial need for job interviews and important appointments. Con first attended Dress for Work three months ago, where he was issued with a jacket, trousers and a shirt.  At the time he required the suit to attend a job interview for an accountant position for a private firm located in the city. Asked where he would be if Dress for Work did not exist,  he smiles meekly and replies “I just don’t know”. Con stated that he would often look through bins outside charitable organisations to find clothing, only to find that the clothes were almost always for women and children.

As it so happens, Con did secure the role with his Dress for Work suit and continues to be employed today. Con attributes his employment as one of the factors which saved him from tumbling even further into his downward spiral. “My job gives me a much needed social aspect to my life now and keeps me occupied”.

Janette, a Dress for Work volunteer noticed the difference the suit made to his demeanour almost immediately. “He arrived quite reserved, slightly hunched but when he put that suit on, it was like he was a new man – he stood up straight and he was smiling ear to ear.”

Con stated that he was grateful to Dress for Work for providing him the suit to get him to the job.

Con’s story was featured in the  Canterbury -Bankstown Express, to read the full story please click here.

 

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