Working as a farmer might not seem like an obvious match for helping an educational giraffe. But skills learned on the land have navigated Life Education volunteer Ian Penfold out in a number of tight spots. Better yet, his experience has made sure that kids get health messages, no matter where they live.
For over 25 years, the Coolamon farmer has helped tow the shire van to schools across the region, along with the support of the Coolamon Lion’s Club. In all those years, he’s only had a handful of memorable mishaps.
“Country roads can sometimes bring a set of unique surprises,” Ian says.
“I’ve towed the van down some very narrow country school driveways near Lake Albert, through difficult conditions and terrains. Being an old farm hand has helped me steer the van out of some tight spaces, like almost getting bogged leaving Kooringal Public School.”
For Ian, satisfaction comes from knowing he is playing his part to help local kids get important messages about healthy eating.
"I think it’s imperative that regional students have the opportunity to learn about nutrition with Healthy Harold. They can easily be swayed with all the fast food that is popping up these days. It’s important for them to get a bit of a grounding in their early days and learn how to best take responsibility for their own bodies," says Ian.
Volunteer Albert Manning, who helps tow the Murrumbidgee van, agrees that keeping country kids healthy is the main satisfaction of the job.
Albert has been moving the van around his local area since 1986, and was instrumental in setting up the program in the local area.
“In 1984 Ted Noffs came to a Gundagai Lions Club meeting to talk about the Life Education program. A few of us got our heads together and formulated an area for the van. We then set about raising the funds for the van and school visits. It took a couple of years but we’ve been going strong ever since.”
Volunteering is a ‘way of life’ for Albert. “If you have the time, you should do it,” he says.
While Coolamon volunteer Ian is retiring from volunteering work this year, the wheels will continue to turn on the Coolamon van, thanks to the help of the local Lions clubs.
“I think it’s very rewarding to have helped my community out this way. I always have made time for when the van comes around into my area. I’m going to miss this job,” Ian says.
Healthy Harold’s fleet of 44 vans are transported over regions far and wide with the dedicated assistance of a driving force of volunteers. It is only with the support of generous community-minded volunteers that children all over NSW can access crucial health and safety Life Education programs.
Thanks to our volunteer army, which includes more than 150 local councils, service clubs, principals, parents, Local Action Groups and other dedicated locals, we’ve visited approximately 290,000 students in more than 2000 schools across NSW and the ACT this year.
The generous support of our volunteers keeps Healthy Harold’s wheels turning.