10/03/2011 - 00:00

Big Help Mob getting on with the job

10/03/2011 - 00:00


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TIM Kenworthy is what one would typically refer to as a ‘doer’.

Big Help Mob getting on with the job

TIM Kenworthy is what one would typically refer to as a ‘doer’.

With his volunteering focused organisation Youth Tree, Mr Kenworthy has been working to challenge what he believes is the common misconception that young people are purely out for themselves. At the same time, he is aiming to bring a sense of community back to Western Australia.

The idea for Youth Tree was hatched three years ago when Mr Kenworthy did some community development volunteering in Guatemala through Youth Challenge Australia – an experience that was both thought-provoking and instructive.

“I was meant to be doing a community development project but that community had a biogas system, their 14-year-old knew how to run a micro hydropower plant, they had water purification systems ... and they ran a sustainable macadamia and coffee farm. Their community didn’t need developing, if any community needed developing it was mine,” he said.

“I didn’t have an experience where I felt surrounded by people in poverty that I had to help, it was very much the other way around.”

Just which was the more equitable community was made even more obvious upon Mr Kenworthy’s return to Perth.

“I had a sort of reverse culture shock,’’ he said.

‘‘I had just got back from this community that was all tight knit and looking out for each other and kind of based on giving and then I came back to Perth and it really struck me that there were just people in buses with iPods in their ears.

‘‘It was very individualistic and I was on a high and I wanted to do something to share what I got out of giving really.”

With that he said he felt compelled to create an opportunity for young people who wanted to contribute to the community but didn’t necessarily know how.

Youth Tree began as a two-day brainstorming-type event in early 2009, when 80 young people and 20 not-for-profit organisations got together and created a sculpture to represent the issues they cared about and why, and what they wanted to change about them and how.

“It was meant to be representative of the collective will of young people to make a positive impact on the world,” Mr Kenworthy said.

Prior to the event the purpose of Youth Tree wasn’t clear, but that soon changed.

Out of that experience came the two branches of the organisation that now exist – Big Help Mob and TEDX.

The 100 attendees decided that they needed a forum to discuss broad issues and ideas – TEDX – and an action group that would help to create quick and useful change.

“TEDX is like a ‘sit down and talk about it’ branch and Big Help Mob is our ‘shut up and do it branch’,” Mr Kenworthy said.

Big Help Mob facilitates the volunteering of a 100-person-strong ‘rent a crowd’.

“The idea is to lend a massive burst of people power to non-profit causes that need it,” Mr Kenworthy said.

Last year, Big Help Mob had its first day of volunteering, working to clean up Clontarf Hill in the suburb of Hamilton Hill. The group backed this up in October, working with People Who Care to garden and work on properties of the elderly and people with disabilities.

“It’s a really good way for young people who don’t quite know where to go to just get started; they just sign up online and jump straight into doing something useful,” Mr Kenworthy said.

“The idea is to do something really tangible, meaningful and useful, and get young people driving it.”

Facilitating this work is only one half of Big Help Mob – which draws attention to causes using ‘flash mob’ performances. After its work with People Who Care, Big Help Mob created a paparazzi reception for people arriving in the city by train to celebrate their use of more sustainable transport.

Mr Kenworthy said the concept was important to Youth Tree, which aimed to ensure these events tied in to bring attention to worthy causes and community issues, such as sustainability.

“The idea is to reinforce to young people that volunteering can be fun and social and it’s not boring. We get together and do silly things in support of something meaningful,” he said.

Youth Tree is currently developing a formula for Big Help Mob so it can be re-created and franchised throughout Australia (and the world) in an effort to give young people an easily accessible avenue to volunteering.

He might have a team of sidekicks, but at only 21 Mr Kenworthy is clearly doing his bit to dispel the idea that young people only care about themselves.



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