By Bev Jordan
Castle Hill United’s Chris Kirk has been named the region’s Volunteers of the Year by the The Centre for Volunteering and St John Ambulance volunteer Ethan Hariputhan has been named Young Volunteer of the Year for North West Sydney.
The NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards was announced on Tuesday (August 24) and cover the Hills to Hawkesbury region.
Senior Volunteer of the Year is Robin Deaves, a team leader with Parramatta Council’s Community Care Volunteer Team and Volunteer Team of the Year is the Castle Hill Branch of the CWA of NSW.
The annual awards are run by The Centre for Volunteering to recognise the outstanding effort of volunteers throughout the state and supported the NSW Department of Communities and Justice and ClubsNSW.
North-West Sydney Volunteer of the Year Chris Kirk from Castle Hill has been involved with Castle Hill United since he migrated from the UK with work four years ago and volunteers as equipment manager, grounds manager and referee coordinator.
A senior referee, Chris referees between three and 12 games a week and has grown the junior referee programme to 25 junior referees this season. He spends up to four hours on a Friday afternoon inspecting fields and line-marking before weekend games and after a full day’s work with a fire safety company.
Chris served in the British Army for 17 years, completing two tours of Iraq and suffers from PTSD, depression, and anxiety. He told the Hills to Hawkesbury Community News that it was his wife Katherine who suggested he volunteered at the club’s grounds to help.
“I started line marking when I first came to Australia … it’s very therapeutic,” he said. The youngest of the couple’s five children play at the club, Chris coaches his son’s Un14 team and the two younger girls (12 and 11) play on Sunday. He also plays for the over 35s team.
Chris said he and his wife and youngest daughter watched the awards via Zoom at their home. “There were so many people (nominated) and I have so much respect for them.”
He said he was very shocked when he was announced the winner and “really proud.”
Ethan Hariputhan, from Bella Vista is a volunteer with St John Ambulance, starting with the North Rocks Cadet Unit. He is studying to be a paramedic.
Senior Volunteer of the Year – Robin Deaves works with elderly people in the local area to provide opportunities for social interaction. In 2020, when COVID-19 forced activities to be suspended, Robin regularly contacted each participant to make sure they were okay.
Volunteer Team of the Year – CWA of NSW, Castle Hill Branch organised a sewing bee to make face masks and raised more than $10,000 to support the Women’s Sanctuary at Castle Hill and St Gabriel’s School, Castle Hill as well as cover the cost of much-needed renovations to their CWA premises in Kenthurst.
CEO of The Centre for Volunteering, Gemma Rygate said: “The past 12 months have been tough for all of us, but volunteers have continued to dig deep to support their local communities through this adversity.
“In many cases, they’ve had to find totally new ways of volunteering through the pandemic, but they’ve never given up, they’ve worked around it and shown enormous resilience. “
The inaugural NSW State of Volunteering report found that volunteers contribute more than $127 billion to NSW annually in social and economic benefits and that volunteers in NSW contributed 1.5 billion hours to their communities in the past year.