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The value of volunteering

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With great power comes great responsibility, but, as the President of Curtin Volunteers!, Annika Htun takes it all in stride. The Myanmar-­born postgraduate student wants to use her experience studying a Master of Business Administration (Global) to become a social entrepreneur in her home country. For now though, she’s working tirelessly with her team to provide volunteering opportunities for university students and is helping communities across Western Australia.

Annika Htun sitting on a bench in front of a Curtin Volunteers! sign.

What do you do as President of Curtin Volunteers!?

I help students get involved in volunteering and work with the rest of the team to provide leadership opportunities to the students. Our student volunteers participate in tree planting, gardening and promoting sustainability on and off campus. We bring domestic and international students together in comfortable and casual environments to promote their conversational English. We also take students to schools to help develop healthy eating habits for children and also assist mentoring and tutoring with literacy and numeracy. In fact, we are involved with several programs and projects across Western Australia.

We also run the John Curtin Weekend (JCW), which opens in August and runs for six weeks. We take students into rural areas outside of the city and help rural and remote towns and Indigenous communities.

Do you have any interesting volunteering stories?

This year, I went to two JCW sites. One was a five-day trip to Laverton, where we helped the local Indigenous kids at the youth centre when they were on school holidays. We played sports, camped in the outback and did a lot of other things. We even taught them programming through Minecraft. It was really super cool.

Curtin Volunteers! also helps an organisation called ‘Wheelchairs For Kids’ at one of the JCW sites, where we build wheelchairs for kids who are disabled in third world countries, with the help of retiree volunteers, who teach us how to make the wheelchairs sturdy. We had never made wheelchairs before when we first got there and they said, “You put the nuts and bolts here and there.” All of the engineers were stroking their chins and seeing how many they could build. It was exciting because one of the countries that we send the wheelchairs to is my country, Myanmar, so all the kids there are going to be using these wheelchairs that we built. It was really super fun.

Why did you choose to study a Master of Business Administration (Global)?

I’ve always wanted to become an entrepreneur. Now that I am involved in a lot of social things, like Curtin Volunteers!, I’ve decided I would like to become a social entrepreneur. My background is finance and management, which I think is good for becoming an entrepreneur, because you get to know a lot about businesses and how they operate. I’ve always wanted to complete the MBA at a young age, but I didn’t have enough work experience. Curtin offers unique opportunities for qualified students with work experience of three years or less and I realised I could do an MBA (Global). Since I also got a scholarship, I decided to give it a shot.

What would you do as a social entrepreneur?

My country, Myanmar, has lots of middle-class people, but is mostly made of people who are poor. Every day is a struggle for them and many can’t afford their own food or medical payments. The ambulance services in my country are not very well developed. Ambulances are just a mode of transportation and ambulance crews are rarely medically qualified staff members. Because I’ve been heavily involved with St John Ambulances, I want to work as a social entrepreneur to help improve Myanmar’s ambulance services and range of emergency medicines that are essential in prolonging life before people get to hospitals. I also want to provide affordable food options for those people struggling from day-­to-­day. I won’t be able to change the country by myself, but I want to contribute in the small, little ways that I can.

Are there any other activities you take part in?

These past two years, I’ve had the chance to become involved in a lot of other opportunities at Curtin, like the John Curtin Leadership Academy.

I overcame a lot of fear when I took part in the four-­day leadership camp. I shouldn’t be discussing it too much so that other students can get the chance to have their own experiences, but the camp really changed me a lot. I started to understand myself a bit more, developed leadership qualities and started to learn how to trust myself and other people more. I discovered things that I never knew about me. That was a life changing experience.

What would you say to people who don’t want to get involved in volunteering?

One of the biggest regrets I had with my undergraduate degree was that I was too focused on my studies. I wanted to get the best results and the best achievements. I was always in the books and always sitting in lectures. I’m not saying that it’s not a good thing. It’s a good thing to try your best in your studies, but I never let myself get involved in other opportunities. So by the time I graduated, I didn’t have a lot of memories about university.

Studying masters has been a second chance for me. I’ve gotten involved in a lot of opportunities. I feel more experienced. You can learn from other people as much as, or even more than, the books. People who get the highest marks sometimes don’t get hired because they don’t have interpersonal skills. So being brilliant in your studies is good, but at the same time it’s very important to put yourself out there, meet different people, build networks, face challenges and be exposed to other experiences.

 

For more information on Curtin Volunteers! or the John Curtin Weekend, visit the Curtin Volunteers! website or contact cv@curtin.edu.au.

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