Good news for all Aspen Medical employees – the company provides two days of paid volunteer leave a year.

Whilst Magreth De Graaf may not have taken advantage of this yet, instead volunteering in her non-working time, she’s nevertheless impressed by Aspen Medical’s commitment. ‘I’m proud they’re encouraging us to put something back into the community.’

Magreth works at Aspen Medical’s Brisbane-based GMS (Global Medical Supplies) as a Sales Co-ordinator and is, like many others who volunteer on a regular basis, shy about speaking publicly and is modest about her achievements.

For the last ten years, Magreth has spent at least 12 hours a week with the Netherlands Association of Queensland. This not-for-profit organisation was set up more than 70 years ago.

She’s willingly given her time to a variety of activities, from organising fund-raising events for Queensland flood and disaster victims to charities such as Youngcare which deals with accommodation for those with disability.

When the club was contemplating closure, due to its ageing membership, Magreth stepped in and spent a year as a committee member ‘watching how things work. I was asked to become President and took on that role two years ago. I’m also Acting Treasurer.’

She uses her business skills here, but a volunteer’s workplace also reaps rewards.  ‘There’s a satisfaction in doing things that help a community.

‘You become more compassionate and understanding of someone else’s situation when you volunteer, and you then bring those qualities to your job.’

At Aspen Medical, Magreth is responsible for supplying projects, in Australia and overseas, with medical items from band-aids to medications and hospital theatre beds.

Born in Australia, to immigrant parents, she says she was ‘manufactured in the Netherlands’.

‘By the way, that’s the correct term. “Holland” is just part of the Netherlands.

‘My father was one of the first FIFO (fly-in, fly-out) workers but on a train. He’d travel from Limburg to Rotterdam to work as an engineer for Shell and return home at weekends.

‘Even 15 years after the Second World War had ended, the Netherlands was a war-torn country with widespread shortages, including food. So, my family emigrated to Australia in the late 1950s for a better life.

‘For my first five years I was raised by a non-English speaking mother and picked up the Dutch language from birth. We had no family here and my brothers, sisters and I clung to the stories my mum told us about our aunties and uncles.

‘When I was 19, I went overseas and lived for five years in the Netherlands. That’s when I realised there are inherently Dutch traits, such as being very logical and practical, right down to the way we fold our towels and put things in the cupboard.

‘My parents are proud Australians. This country gave them, and us children, so much. Australia embraced us, our culture and traditions.

Australia is all the richer for the actions of volunteers. Its benefits have been well-documented and include providing purpose, improving confidence, sharing skills and learning new ones. 

‘Volunteering lets me give back to the community and also gives me a sense of belonging,’ says Magreth, who is eager to share her experience.

‘Next year, I’d like to invite everyone to celebrate King’s Day on April 23 in Brisbane,’ says Magreth. This showcases Dutch culture, with live music and delicious foods, such as oliebollen, Dutch donuts.

What other skills has Magreth picked up from volunteering?

‘A bit of diplomacy’, she laughs. ‘I’ve learnt to be even more focused and organised, taking a list of things into each committee meeting and asking, “Where can we do the most good?” for our fundraising events.

‘But mainly I just enjoy the fact that we’re benefitting others and that’s pretty much what it’s all about.’

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