Hello! My name is Tyra Dawson, I am 16 years old attending Camberwell Girls Grammar School, and this month I carried out my work experience week at Koala Kids. In the span of four days, I have had the most eye-opening and rewarding experience that I’d love to share!

Last year in 2021, I was fortunate enough to participate in my school’s Service Learning conference where we heard Mandy speak about Koala Kids Foundation. As she spoke about her organisation’s vision, mission, and purpose, I was moved by her true passion for her work, and her words really resonated with me as I had Paediatric Thyroid Cancer myself earlier that year. My own personal experiences along with Mandy’s presentation that day made me realise instantly that I wanted to carry out my Year 10 Work Experience at Koala Kids – I knew I wouldn’t be ‘working’ a day in my work experience if I were paying my kindness forward by supporting children, young people, and families through donating my time. And upon reflection, I couldn’t have been more correct!

Throughout my time at Koala Kids, I met many amazing people who were all so compassionate and dedicated to giving support to others. From the Officeworks store managers that Mandy, Jess and I met as a part of Officeworks’ Make a Difference campaign, to Kristy who creates the Smashed Pinata Cakes for children’s birthdays, to Ruby and Georgea who are Emergency Department nurses at the Royal Children’s Hospital, all have different ways of interacting with Koala Kids to share their skills and care. Moving forward, I wish to extend an involvement with Koala Kids in my own way, which will be both in the form of becoming a volunteer and advocate for the organisation and coordinating a 3D Mask Printing for Peter Mac initiative between my school and Koala Kids.

I have truly learnt what Koala Kids, Mandy, and Jess are all about. Their fulfilment in their work comes from bringing happiness to children and young people during their cancer treatment. And they cannot help but spread their support and love beyond these kids – to their families, to their siblings, and to their healthcare workers. Their outlook on their organisation, that they wish to be small enough to give a child and their family service that is individual to their circumstances, but big enough to touch every child and their family undergoing cancer treatment in Victoria and Tasmania, is such an inspiring purpose behind everything they do.

Four days with Koala Kids and I have learnt so much, am incredibly thankful to Mandy and Jess, and extremely grateful to be able to have had such an enriching experience. As now a member of the Koala Kids family, I cannot wait to extend my volunteering experience with Koala Kids in the future!