As the Communications Coordinator of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, I have the great opportunity to know the many volunteers who help out in the kitchen garden schools around Australia. Our volunteers are critical to our organization and inspire me every day in my work. Take, for instance, Anne Pawley.
Anne is unstoppable. She goes hiking in Europe, works in the university library, archives school records, plays in a band, learns new instruments, and braves snakes and swooping magpies on her weekly run or walk along the rail trail to the local school.
For the students at Glengarry Primary School, Anne -- a volunteer at the school's kitchen garden program -- is just like a Nanna who makes their school a nicer, kinder and friendlier place.
Anne gives one day a week to help students cook delicious dishes using produce harvested from the school garden. In this kitchen, Anne is more than just an extra pair of hands. A retired teacher, Anne also gives students the learnings and insights she possesses from her decades of teaching.
One of Anne's passions is literacy and it makes her well-equipped to give her students the extra help they need to boost their language skills, even as they have fun.
In one of those first kitchen classes, a student with foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), lacked confidence in her language and would cling to Anne's side. Anne spent time with this student practising her literacy skills, helping her transform into a more assured speaker. Today, this student proudly uses language to engage and express, telling this valuable volunteer: "Look Miss Pawley, I am carrying the tea towels."
Anne is the first to say that she is no master chef. In fact, she declares happily to the students: "I don't know how to do that, so let's learn together."
This is a great gift to the students, says Melissa Pavey, the Kitchen Garden Program Coordinator, as "they see in her a learner alongside them."
The students love Anne for it, and this year they nominated their valued volunteer as the Victorian Senior of the Year, writing letters of testimony brimming with pride and admiration.
"Did you know she volunteers her time for free? She doesn't even get paid" exclaim the students of Grade 3/4 C.
"She has taught us skills that we will need for the rest of our lives!" write the students of Grade 3/4J.
"Words can't explain how much we appreciate Miss Pawley for supporting our school."
Anne is just one of thousands of volunteers who help over 1,000 kitchen garden schools and learning centres across Australia deliver a better quality of food education. This gift of time, love and learning is treasured by the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, whose mission it is to support the delivery of pleasurable food education, and the thousands of students, teachers and parents who benefit from their efforts. We thank Anne and our many volunteers for the important work they do for our students and communities.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the #GivingTuesday Team at 92nd Street Y, to celebrate #GivingTuesday. #GivingTuesday is a global giving movement, and the series (which will feature content throughout November) aims to celebrate how people are giving back around the world. For more information about #GivingTuesday, visit here. And to join the conversation on social media, use the hashtag #GivingTuesday.