Chau Au wins NSW Volunteering Award
UTS SOUL Award alumni Chau Au was deservedly named 2018 Young Volunteer of the Year (Sydney Central and Eastern Suburbs Region) at the NSW Volunteer of the Year awards, announced in late August.
Chau, an education student from UTS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, was recognised for his foundational leadership work with Code Club Australia. Not only as a program facilitator, but also as a trainer, recruiter and for being instrumental in establishing not one, but three Code Club programs in public libraries across Sydney.
Code Club Australia is a nationwide network of volunteer-led clubs in schools and public libraries aiming to teach young people aged 8 to 15 years coding skills by showing them how to make computer games, animations and websites. The program was initially founded in the UK in 2012 and was launched in Australia in 2014.
As one of the first volunteers, Chau worked with library staff to launch and run the first Code Club at Randwick City Library in May 2015.
Chau remembers. “At the time, I didn’t know how to start a Code Club and I didn’t feel confident, but I took on the challenge.
“Luckily, I joined the UTS SOUL Award and by attending the SOUL workshops I developed skills in starting up a volunteer program.”
After the first Code Club, the program became so popular that Chau ran the program for four more groups in that first year alone.
Now, a volunteering veteran in his fourth year of running Code Clubs, Chau was also instrumental in setting up two more clubs: at Parramatta Library (2016) and Whitlam Library, Cabramatta (2017). He will be planning to launch a fourth Club at Bonnyrigg Library next year in 2019.
“Parramatta Library was a place I regularly visited when was at high school,” said Chau. “But I decided to support new Code Clubs in Cabramatta because kids in the area can be quite disadvantaged and it’s a very culturally diverse community, so why not spread my love and passion of coding around!”
On top of all this activity, Chau has also helped run workshops and training sessions for program facilitators, as well as recruit new volunteers for Code Club, including his fellow UTS SOUL Award students.
He has spoken of his work at public events, including at the State Library’s HSC and Education Forum to encourage others to implement the program in their schools and libraries.
Chau was first recognised for his work in late 2015 where he was awarded Young Volunteer of the Year at Code Club Australia’s first birthday celebration.
Asked about standout moments of all his work to support young people, for Chau one particular experience stands out. “I had a parent approach me to say thank you for providing Code Club as an opportunity for their two children. They said they had never seen them so well behaved.
“At the end of the program, I found out that one of the children had ongoing behavioural and social difficulties. But, since they had been coming to Code Club, they had slowly become more socially confident around peers and improved academically in reading level skills at school.”
“I felt proud of myself after hearing this and realised that my Code Club was not just about working on coding projects. It is about being curious, exploring new things, working on strengths and weaknesses and boosting social confidence to create success.”
In November, Chau will go on to represent the Sydney Central and Eastern Suburbs Region at the state finals of the NSW Volunteer of the Year awards.
But he is most excited about this as an opportunity to get the chance to meet other winners from other regions and hear their volunteering stories and achievements. He thinks anyone who has been nominated for this award are winners and deserve to be recognised at the peak level.
And, despite having to constantly juggle his studies with his community leadership commitments, Chau’s passion for volunteering continues to drive him.
“Volunteering is a rewarding and valuable experience,” he said. “It’s a lot of work but it does pay off in the end, not only yourself but for everyone in the community.”
“This is about giving your time to give something to the community, and what you get back is experience, fun, learning and skills.”