Volunteers of the year Michael & Kelvin: Why we love what we do
By Cancer Council NSW
Kelvin and Michael with Cancer Council NSW CEO Jeff Mitchell at our 2019 CEO Awards
Do you remember what you did after finishing high school? In 2018, just months after graduating, Michael and Kelvin Tran (no relation) became the Co-Chairs of Relay For Life Fairfield, in south-west Sydney. That’s a massive responsibility on young shoulders. But they ended up putting on one of the most successful Relays ever.
Their amazing work has earned them the title of Cancer Council NSW’s Volunteer Team of the Year at our recent CEO Awards. Congratulations, boys!
Michael and Kelvin are currently hard at work organising Relay For Life Fairfield 2019. But they made some time to talk to us about how they started out, what keeps them coming back for more, and why you should volunteer too.
How did you get involved with Relay For Life?
Michael: My grandma passed away from cancer when I was in primary school. So, I went to my first Relay For Life in 2014 and then joined the Fairfield Relay For Life Committee the following year.
I was probably a bit reluctant to volunteer at first because, you know, being a teenager, you just want to play and do your own thing. But I ended up enjoying it and having some success. As I got older, I appreciated more what my grandma went through and connected more with the cause. That’s why I kept on volunteering and keep coming back today.
Kelvin: When I was quite young, my mum was diagnosed with a benign tumour in her brain. That impacted my family a lot and made me want to help other families going through similar experiences.
The more I’ve volunteered with Relay, the more I’ve learnt about the difference I can make. I keep doing it because I know how much I’m contributing to my community. I try to make sure new volunteers understand the impact they’re making too.
Kelvin and Michael fundraising in the community
What have you learnt through volunteering?
Michael: I started out as the Youth Coordinator for Fairfield Relay For Life when I was in year 10. My task was to reach out to local schools and get them to participate at Relay. We didn’t have a strong school contingent at the time, so it was a very daunting job and I remember being so nervous. But I gave it a go, achieved some amazing results and, now, it’s like water.
The toughest challenge for me now is balancing work, uni, all my volunteering activities (because I also do other volunteer work) and my hobbies. It’s full on for me but I do it because I just want to give back to people while I can.
Kelvin: Through volunteering with Cancer Council NSW, I’ve done a bit of everything and learnt a lot. I was Entertainment Coordinator for a year, then I did schools and youth engagement. It’s been really good because I’ve met lots of great people and there’s been a bit of progression.
Then becoming the co-chairing last year was a big learning curve for me – leading a team full of different personalities, handling conflict, managing budgets and logistics. I’ve found it difficult at times, but I always try to stay calm, keep an open mindset and learn as I go. Fortunately, the former Chair has been a great mentor for me along the way.
Michael and Kelvin with fellow volunteers Caroline Raunjak and James Butler, who’s on our Board
What would you say to encourage other young people to take up volunteering?
Michael: I feel that most kids see volunteering as just getting an extra thing for your resume. But I’d emphasise to young people that it’s more than that, it’s a way of connecting with your community and making an impact. At Cancer Council, for example, you’re making a difference in the lives of people right across Australia. You’re enabling research, helping people affected by cancer get support, raising awareness in schools and local businesses.
I think volunteering is great because you can learn so much and get so much out of it. So, just bite the bullet and give it a go! I’ve enjoyed my experience with Cancer Council as it’s a very welcoming and supportive organisation. If you try something and it’s not your cup of tea, they’ll help you find what suits you best.
Kelvin: When you’re young, you don’t know what’s out there. So, I would say, if an opportunity comes your way and you think it might interest you, don’t pass it up. Try new things and put your heart into it. I meet many young people who are very engaged and ambitious, and I’d like them to know what’s possible when you try things.
I’d also encourage all new volunteers to learn more about the organisations they’re getting involved with. If you’re working really hard but don’t feel connected with the impact you’re making, you can lose motivation. But I dug a little deeper and learnt more about Cancer Council, it gave me a greater sense of purpose.
Can you give us a sneak peek into this year’s Fairfield Relay For Life?
Michael & Kelvin: The Fairfield Relay For Life will be at a new location this year: Fairfield Showground. It’ll start at 9:30am on Saturday 16 November and run for 24 hours. Our Relay will once again celebrate the area’s multiculturalism with lion dancers and a special K-pop dance performance!
A new attraction this year is the dunk tank. So, come down to Fairfield Showground if you want to see our local mayor, State and Federal MPs getting dunked! We’re also giving local schools the opportunity to dunk their principals!
The Trung Han Qun Lion Dance Group at Relay For Life Fairfield 2018
You can get involved with Relay too!
Thank you so much Michael and Kelvin for being such committed and tenacious volunteers, and congratulations on your thoroughly deserved CEO Awards. We’ve loved seeing you develop as people with us and can’t wait to see what you come up with for this year’s Relay!