17 June, 2015

Charlie is 25. Every week, he volunteers a day of his time as a counsellor in Blacktown, Sydney. It’s a job that provides insight into the difficulties many people face.

“The hardest part of counselling I think is being with someone in their struggle,” Charlie says. “While there’s a real privilege and an honour in that, it can also be quite hard to see what someone is going through – to think that’s the realities of some people’s lives.

Charlie has been volunteering at the community centre run by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) for almost a year. He sees four to six clients a day – school children, the elderly, couples and singles.

“People come in being honest, being genuine, being vulnerable. And in that you get to see the real joys in people’s lives amongst the real hardships they go through. I feel like that gives you a real full experience of what it is, I guess, to be a human and connect with another person,” Charlie says.

Often referred to as ‘the lucky country’, Australia consistently ranks as one of the world’s richest nations. A new report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has found that income inequality in Australia is rising, although it remains slightly lower than the global average. The top ten percent of income earners in Australia make almost nine times more than the bottom ten percent.

The impacts of this unequal wealth distribution are felt keenly in areas like Sydney’s western suburbs. 

“Some of the realities of the people out in Blacktown are very hard to hear and not stuff that I’ve even [experienced],” says Charlie.

He finds meaning in his work by relating to people in an authentic way.

“The real joys in life are connecting with people, communicating with people,” says Charlie. “And in a counsellor setting you’re getting people in their most honest, talking about things that really matter to them and you get to see the real side of people.”

Fellow counsellor Gratiela Copaceanu says Charlie’s dedication helps the “invisible” and “marginalised”.

“Charlie really has a heart for service. And it is quite rare that you can have somebody young like him give up a day of work to come and be a volunteer for people that so many others have just pushed to the side,” says Ms Copaceanu.  

Charlie’s heart for service reflects what Christ desires of his followers.

In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus issues a challenge: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

In the midst of inequality, it’s selfless people like Charlie that help amazing things happen.

To learn how you can Shine Your Light, visit adra.org.au/shine