Post TBL blues. It’s a real thing. You spend 9 days with 80 people and they become your family. Every day, every night and every moment is shared, and you find yourself immersed in a bubble of love and friendship. When you first sign up, you’re sceptical of this “life-changing” ability that TBL alumni speak of. But, once you’re home, you’ve unpacked your bags, and taken a much-needed shower . . . waking up the next morning without being surrounded by 79 other sleeping bags, makes your body go into withdrawal. 9 days of volunteering together, road tripping across 7 different towns, eating together, sleeping together, and making many great memories in a remarkably short amount of time does that to you. The people you meet, townspeople and your fellow volunteers, the bond you form with one another, it’s priceless. You become dependent on each other, you support one another, you become family.
As someone who has lived in the city their entire life, I found it difficult to comprehend why people would choose to live in regional Australia. The energy and liveliness of the city seemed so much more attractive. The Big Lift made me realize my ignorance and the fact that there is so much more to country life. There’s not only the stunning landscape but also the people are the kindest, most generous you’ll ever meet.
The very first night we stayed in a primary school at a little town called Mandurama. The number of kids that went to this school . . . Eight. Unlike anything you’d ever see in Sydney. Upon arriving there, we were welcomed by the school’s principal, their only teacher, parents and even a couple of the students! When you go to these towns the general mindset of a city perspective is that you’re the ones offering support and time to the townspeople. You don’t expect anything in return. However, the moment you meet them, the idea of us and them becomes invalid. You all become the same and come together to achieve something great. The overwhelming generosity and hospitality of the townspeople does not fail to amaze.
After learning all about the history of Mandurama and being served quite possibly the best apple pie ever, 40 of us along with our sleeping bags squished into the school’s assembly hall like Tetris blocks. I know, sounds extremely uncomfortable and inconvenient. You’d rather spread out on your own bed like a starfish. But honestly, that first night made everyone so comfortable with each other and we instantly bonded. It was one of my favourite memories on the trip and I would definitely jump at the chance to do it again.
When visiting these small towns, the biggest difference you feel is this incredibly strong sense of community. The serenity and unity that exists is not like anything I’d come across ordinarily. It’s unexpected, just how friendly and welcoming the locals are when you visit these towns. Walking down the street, there wasn’t a single person who didn’t say hello or smile at you.
The townspeople that I met on the trip were genuinely happy. Their hearts are pure. You could see they were content and extremely grateful for what they have. It was heart-warming to see how they welcome you into their town with open arms when they’ve never met you before and know absolutely nothing about you. The conversations I had with the people in these towns showed me that there was so much wisdom hidden behind their modesty.
In our very last town, Meredith, a few volunteers and I had the pleasure of having an insightful conversation with Mr. Jim Baker, a local. It made us realize how vital communication across generations is and how much knowledge can be gained through such interactions. Like Mr. Baker said: “Share whatever you know to learn from each other”.
And that’s what The Big Lift did for me. It taught me to be more open to people and their ideas; to stop and listen to the people around you because they have so much to offer. I experienced this not only with the townspeople but also my fellow volunteers. I learnt to be less selfish, to be grateful for what I already have, to take a chance, to love and appreciate those around me, and to simply be a nicer person.
Volunteering really shows you how much a group of uni students can achieve in just a few hours. It shows you how small acts of kindness can save people so much time, money, and energy. Seeing just how appreciative and grateful the townspeople were, it really made my heart melt.
There’s many reasons why you might consider going on The Big Lift trip. Maybe you just want to help people. Maybe you’re doing it to become a less selfish person. Maybe you want to become a better person and give back to the community. Doesn’t matter. In the end it’s all the same. You come out itching for more. You want to go back and keep going. Keep helping people. Keep spreading positivity. Keep paying it forward.