Young humanitarian Erica Crombie loves volunteering and making a world of difference.
Young humanitarian Erica Crombie loves making a world of difference for newly arrived asylum seekers. In volunteering, Erica says she has seen joy in more people's faces than she can remember and they have all been through tough times.
"Even if it's just one day, even if you know their life is difficult … if we can provide one day that's joyful, it's good to see a really positive experience," Erica says.
When Erica signed up as a volunteer, she wanted to gain new experiences and give something back to the community. Over the past two years, Erica has been working with Red Cross in a variety of ways. She's been helping people affected by floods, promoting safety for young people at music festivals, and providing support to refugees and asylum seekers.
Supporting asylum seekers
The past few months, 21-year-old Erica who is studying for her VCE, has been convening the Refugee Asylum Seeker Youth program (RAY) with another Red Cross volunteer and staff members.
"Basically we take young people who have newly arrived in Melbourne and take them on different exciting outings into the city and places around Melbourne, to help give them experiences of the city and orientate them. Help make them feel part of the community," she says.
Erica recently spent a day at the Melbourne Zoo on a one-off family day for asylum seekers. It was very rewarding, Erica says, spending the day with a family and their two young children, who were from an area torn by conflict near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
"We had a really good day. The children were absolutely amazing and sweet. They were all absolutely wonderful, the parents were really appreciative and the children were an absolute joy to be around," Erica reflects.
This summer, Erica will be helping out at music festivals with save-a-mate, which focuses on young people learning about helping their friends to stay safe. Working as a volunteer at several festivals, Erica says she has seen many young people make the most of chill-out spaces and learn life-saving skills about drugs and alcohol.
"They all generally come into the tent with sad faces and then the vast majority leave the tent happy," she says.
Helping out in emergencies... and a whole lot more
When big floods hit Victoria and Queensland and Cyclone Yasi slammed into north Queensland, Erica also volunteered on the phones where she responded to inquiries from people urgently trying to get in touch with family members or friends.
Erica says it is great that Red Cross is a global organisation working across many areas. "Even if you can't do one thing there's always something you can be involved in. There's something for everyone, it's such a large organisation worldwide."
Being a young humanitarian is "inspirational", says Erica. "It makes you feel like you're a part of an organisation, you identify with something that's a bit more important. You are part of Red Cross and you're actually achieving something and it's good."
Erica points out that one of the most attractive aspects of Red Cross is the principles, including impartiality and humanity - promoting mutual understanding, friendship, co-operation and lasting peace amongst all people.
"It's important to recognise that were all the same and we're all humans. We all have a responsibility to look after each based on that. It's good that Red Cross is impartial and doesn't judge people being different. It helps everyone based on their common humanity. It's very important."
Erica encourages other young people to get involved, saying it is great fun and really worthwhile.
"It's amazing. People always say to me it's so good that you volunteer but you don't understand the experiences I get out of it. It's not really a chore, it's not a job, it's something you can experience and you can gain knowledge from it. At the end of the day most of the time you have a really good time, everyone's happy and it feels good making other people happy."
Photo: Antony Balmain