A Day in The Life of a Participant by Jenivy Sewak

When I first saw the blue and white logo on a fateful Clubs Day I never could have imagined what it would end up meaning to me. The Big Lift first attracted my inner volunteer to the cause with their ‘Pay It Forward’ philosophy, which operates on the belief that one act of kindness completed out of the good of ones heart results in a butterfly effect of goodness that goes forward to the wider world.

The Big Lift’s goal to empower students as global citizens by travelling to under- resourced regional communities and offering a helping hand through a variety of service projects and activities saw the development of an unexpected comradery within #whitebus. A true sense of community was developed, the shared experiences and heartfelt memories of which are held very dear to me and will be treasured for years to come.

The day begins at 7am with a series of rustling sleeping bags and hushed whispers. Then...

G O O D M O R N I N G GOOD MORNING followed but the collective groan of 40 UTS Students because it’s too early for that kind of enthusiasm without a form of caffeine.

You sit up and smile at the fresh faces of these people, the people you’ve spent all day and night talking to, getting to know, starting to love. And love them you do.

Never did you expect a community hall to feel so much like a home then when sleeping bags are pushed close together into the centre of the room and belongings piled into a hazardous maze in the corner.

Your morning routine is rejuvenated into a social event with plenty of hugs, cups of tea and maybe even a sneaky shower if you can get away with it. It’s onwards and upwards to the service projects as the sun starts to shine through the crisp morning air.

Today you could be making mulch, preparing garden beds, laying down wet newspapers to prevent weeds growing or steaming weeds dead as part of the ‘conversation gardening’ initiative within the Canowindra Community Garden, or being treated to an extensive tour of the Canowindra Historical Society Museum, then raking autumn leaves and trimming gardenias to create a picturesque grounds for the 50th anniversary of the community collection.

Maybe you’re painting the base layer of a school shed for the later installation of a professional mural, picking fresh olives straight from the tree, shoveling and laying mulch or planting seedlings alongside a pathway at the Red Hill Environmental Education Centre in the famed ‘one dollar town’ of Gulgong.

Or perhaps it’s the time to meet up with the #bluebus at Walgett Community College to re-paint the worn down playground designs after 8 years for the start of the new term, relocate a sandpit while wild riding in the back of a ute (until getting told off at least), or doing minor land care at the pre-school.

Possibly the day of working yourself -quite literally- to the ground at the Best Nursery in Tingha has come about, clearing out an entire greenhouse, digging trenches, deconstructing two major shade houses, weeding and uprooting garden beds in an all hands on deck display of enthused teamwork and dedication.

Or it may happen to be the final day of service projects in the lively community of Clifton, doing a variety of land care and painting projects at the local firehouse, train station or laying organic mulch from the towns peanut farms.

Experiencing the extraordinary ability that helping hands have to make a big workload small is a worthwhile achievement any volunteer knows well.

Whichever volunteering day it may be, the ever-present kindness and gratitude was shown by all the communities that The Big Lift bus visited. You were treated to biscuit breaks and many lovingly homemade meals, long chats with the locals about their experiences in the towns and their fascinating life stories.

Maybe this fictional day in the life of a Lifter is during the two-day stint on the coastal bliss of Surfer’s Paradise? TBL taking over the Gold Coast with jam-packed days of the BigMazing Race, Paying it Forward with Random Acts of Kindness or performing the painstakingly practiced Flash Mob in a spectacle of blue.

Or your last bittersweet night waiting for the sunrise on the beach of Nambucca Heads, everyone huddled around a makeshift campfire, roasting marshmallows to the low murmur of conversation, good tunes and good company.

After packing the bus up and saying your final farewell to that small community hall that somehow felt so big, it’s off on the next journey of surprise pit stops, wise words from Ken, bus crushes, yeah buddies and updates for the infamous quote book.

You can never forget the countless activities that took place in the nighttime. The bond that you share with the other Lifters is one that cannot be articulated in so many words. The diversity of all the participants is somehow seamlessly accepted and every struggle weighs a little less with the support of your newfound family.

The day is an emotional rollercoaster for sure, but opening your heart and mind enables you to strive in ways you never could have imagined. The act of giving for a selfless cause while not expecting anything in return, results in you receiving the most unexpected but genuine form of fulfillment and a humbled soul.

This is your TBL day and certainly much more, all the little moments and memories undoubtedly made a BIG impact on me. I guess it’s a matter of once a Lifter, always a Lifter.

All that remains is to pose a question, can it be said that a Day in the Life of a TBL 2017 Participant is worth at least a thousand YEAH BUDDIES?

Baby, There’s Nothing Holding Me Back.