It was the week before Christmas 2012 when Jane Gang, then a corporate events manager, took a slightly panicked call from a friend in need. The Salvation Army was about to host a Christmas Day lunch but corporate support had fallen short and they were in desperate need of her organisational expertise.
“Of course I came along to volunteer, we managed to bring it altogether, and I had a wonderful experience,” said Jane. “It was great to bring my commercial skills into an organisation where I could help so many people.”
While working on the Salvo’s Christmas lunch, which is supported by Coca-Cola, Jane realised it might be possible to take the skills she already had into a job which would inspire her in other ways.
“I had a good job, but to be honest it all felt a bit shallow,” Jane said. “So I began volunteering more for the Salvation Army, and eventually applied for a role as the Store Manager at Streetwear, the Salvation Army Store in Surry Hills.”
Mostly staffed by volunteers, Streetwear is part of the Streetlevel community centre. The centre offers a range of services including low-cost meals, emergency welfare assistance, shower and laundry facilities.
More importantly Streetlevel provides some the country’s most disadvantaged people with a safe place to learn new skills, have a meal or simply have a chat with other staff and patrons.
Since making the transition Jane says she is happier because she feels her work is actually making a difference to society. It’s a view shared by part-time accountant and Salvo’s volunteer Ruby Nguyen, who works with Jane.
“The reason I come and volunteer is that I know the work I do helps other people and that makes me really happy,” Nguyen said. “I get a chance to learn different skills and a chance to be really close to the community.”
According to Jane her career change has inspired a few of her friends to take similar measures in their own lives.
“I’ve started a bit of a trend,” said Jane. “Now I have another friend who’s working helping homeless people, and others have started volunteering, because they’ve seen how happy it makes me.”