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thumb_Timehelp_040Timehelp links up retirees and students for education, well-being and community benefits.


A grant from the Hobsons Bay Community Fund has come just in time to help the volunteer program continue to expand. The innovative Timehelp scheme was awarded $3000 as a grant from the Hobsons Bay Community Fund late last year - enough to employ a part-time co-ordinator for the Hobsons Bay area in 2012.

According to Timehelp national manager Lisa Kingman, the program began in the Geelong region in 2004 in response to the dwindling supply of parents able to work in schools as volunteers. "We have a growing aged population with all these skills and wisdom sitting at home and not being utilised," Ms Kingman said. "We did some research with primary and secondary schools and the schools told us they were desperate for volunteers but did not have the time and resources to source volunteers and screen, train and match them to students. So Timehelp became the solution."

Ms Kingman said Timehelp was trialled in Hobsons Bay in 2006 at the request of, and with funding from, the Sidney Myer Fund. So successful was the trial, it was quickly rolled out into an ongoing program, with 38 volunteers now working in nine local schools in any one week. Volunteers are over 55 years old and have to contribute two to three hours a week in the classrooms, although many spend much more than that in the schools each week. They help in school libraries, provide literacy and numeracy support, one-to-one mentoring or work in specialist areas, such as science and the arts.

Ms Kingman said the volunteers came from a multitude of backgrounds. "They varied from former shop assistants to tradesmen to senior corporate executives," she said. "Some of the women in the program have not had a career. You don't have to have a specialist skill to be involved."

Ms Kingman said students were not the only ones benefitting from Timehelp, with the program also helping the physical and mental well-being of retirees and overcoming social isolation. She said it also helped to change perceptions among young people of the older generation and vice versa, strengthening interaction in the community. A recent survey of Timehelp volunteers showed 97 per cent said the experience was enhancing their well-being, while 96 per cent said they were more connected to the local community as a result of the program.

Williamstown North resident Tina Dey, 79, got involved with the program nine months ago after hearing about it through Williamstown Ladies Probus Club. Mrs Dey had been involved with local clubs and associations but "wanted another interest". "This program really appealed to me," she said. "I particularly like working with the children. They have interesting stories to tell and I learn about things I had no idea about." Mrs Dey has been helping children at the Spotswood Primary School with their reading. She is one of four volunteers at the school.

Timehelp_040Ms Kingman said funding from the Sidney Myer Fund for the Hobsons Bay program expired this coming September, so the HBCF grant was timely. "The Hobsons Bay Community Fund grant came at a critical time for us," she said. "It allows us to employ a part-time co-ordinator for the local volunteer program. It will ensure we have a long future in Hobsons Bay. We estimate the investment by the Hobsons Bay Community Fund will result in a four-fold return to the community."

HBCF chairman Hayden Raysmith said Timehelp was a great program to support. "The kids of today are the future of our community, so any help in their development is welcome," Mr Raysmith said."Timehelp also has a strong focus on refugees and children of migrants - an area in need of special support in our schools. "The community fund is only too pleased to help this fantastic program."

Anyone wanting the join the Timehelp program can find out more from the website.


Australian Communities Foundation

Hobsons Bay Community Fund is a sub-fund of the Australian Communities Foundation. To visit the ACF website, click here.acf logo 2015


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