For many people volunteering overseas is like stepping into the new and the unknown. Foreign languages, strange flavours and weather that’s either too hot or too cold. But not for Diana Juskov. For her, volunteering overseas was like coming home.
Diana volunteered in the Philippines in 2012, as part of the Australian Volunteers Program. It changed her life.
“My Mum is Filipino, but I was born and raised in Australia and grew up very Australian,” says Diana.
“When I went to the Philippines for the first time as an adult, I immediately felt like I belonged. It really gave me a sense of who I am.”
Diana is one of a number of Filipino-Australians who have reconnected with their homeland and heritage through the Australian Volunteers Program.
The program places skilled Australians in roles in 26 countries across southern Africa, Asia and the Pacific. In Diana’s case, she took her background in youth work to Legazpi, Albay in 2012.
“I felt such a strong connection with my Filipino roots, it seemed like a no-brainer to go to the Philippines and share skills with people who feel like extended family,” says Diana
The experience had such an impact that she returned again, volunteering to help develop a foster care program in Baguio, in the hills north of Manila, in 2017. The role provided Diana with the perfect opportunity to share the knowledge she had gained from studying and working in Australia.
“I was also able to learn from some of the hardest working individuals I have ever come across,” says Diana.
“My Filipino colleagues regularly demonstrated immense creativity and compassion. I was particularly impressed at their agility to hike hours into the mountains to provide care. This was not an experience I was ever going to encounter in Australia.”
Diana’s desire to make a positive impact has continued, even now that she’s back in Australia. She currently works in a number of indigenous communities in remote Western Australia, the arid outback – a world away from the lush Philippine archipelago.
Returning to the Philippines allowed Diana to reconnect with culture, community, family and friends.
“I wouldn’t have enjoyed myself as much as I did if it wasn’t for the in-country team who look after the volunteers. I felt incredibly safe and supported every step of the way,” says Diana.
The Australian Volunteers Program is an Australian Government initiative that supports skilled volunteers in 26 countries, including the Philippines, as part of Australia’s aid program. For more information about the Australian Volunteers Program, to view current roles and apply, visit australianvolunteers.com.