Big Lift for Rosedale and Stratford

TWO busloads of University of Technology, Sydney students arrived in Rosedale and Stratford on Thursday to help out community groups across the towns.

The Big Lift is a volunteer initiative that has dozens of students volunteer their time to assist in small towns.

Odd jobs like painting, sanding, gardening, window cleaning, and weeding are completed by the enthusiastic volunteers, who travel from Sydney for two weeks every year.

This is the first year the group has gone south, visiting towns like Bombala and Orbost on the way.

At the Rosedale Community Centre, almost 40 young people were happily sowing garden beds, painting rooms, and installing irrigation in the community garden, after a massive feast at the Mechanics Hall the night before, provided by the Rosedale Lions Club.

As well as providing a facelift for the town, Rosedale Neighbourhood House manager Natasha Hunt said it was putting a smile on residents’ faces as well.

“They are the most positive, enthusiastic people I’ve been around for a long time,” she said.

“They come in and they share their stories and experiences, and they’re listening to our community members sharing their stories as well, they’re learning about a lot of stuff that’s sort of foreign to them.

“They had no idea, seeing a primary school with only a couple of hundred kids, or a small kinder where they might have thousands in Sydney.

“It’s been a real gift to have them come here and help out with some of the tasks that are really quite challenging for some of the volunteer groups.”

Organisations across the town, including the primary school, Men’s Shed, community centre, Neighbourhood House and community garden, kindergarten, RSL, historical society, Mechanics Hall, Anglican church, and the speedway, were all thankful to receive four hours of manual labour from the volunteers.

“It’s been a really positive opportunity for the community, it’s brought the community together,” Ms Hunt said.

Director of public relations and communications for the Big Lift, George Kalatzis, said it was fulfilling to give back to communities.

“Most of the towns we’ve had reasonably good weather, some rain but it didn’t dampen our spirits,” he said.

“We’re hoping to spread that love and kindness, and the hope that other communities will use that to pay it forward . . . spread that through other communities so people do good deeds without expecting anything in return.”

Rosedale Community Garden Group representative Ken Aroin said it was good to have young people helping out, especially with the irrigation installation.

“The average age of our garden group is in the 70s, and I’m the youngest,” he said.

“To have the hard work done, is just fantastic.”