By Jessica Eng – West Welcome Wagon Volunteer

    That saying, ‘Home is where the heart is’ probably resonates with many of us who live in the west. There’s something special about being a Westie. And it’s probably because we are a community who love to build each other up and see everyone given a fair go. It’s one of the reasons why so many not-for-profits exist, such as West Welcome Wagon. 

    West Welcome Wagon is now in its 10th year of operation supporting asylum seekers and refugees in Melbourne’s west. It started off with locals dropping off much needed goods to the organisation founder’s front porch, to be distributed out to those in need. Over the years we have seen the operations grow to what it is today – with two dedicated warehouses and delivery vans backed up by the wonderful volunteers.

    Hundreds of households can be supported at any given time, with food parcels, furniture, bedding, clothing, children’s toys and educational items as well as other household requirements. All this would not be possible without the dedicated commitment and support from the volunteers. 

    Three West Welcome Wagon volunteers share their story and why they do what they do to support our community members. 


    Kerry is from Williamstown and has been volunteering with West Welcome Wagon for over eight years. She currently helps look after the kitchen, linen, small electrical goods and laundry needs. This involves sorting out the donations received, keeping an eye on stock levels, and making bundles for the wonderful families that West Welcome Wagon support. 

    When asked why she volunteers with West Welcome Wagon, Kerry explains: “These are some of the most disadvantaged members of our community”.

    “West Welcome Wagon is critical to the wellbeing of our clients – their need for all the basic household items which is essential for them to start a new life and feel welcome in our community.”

    Kerry finds volunteering incredibly satisfying with the opportunity to have fun working with a committed group of like-minded people. It gives her a great physical workout as well by packing and carrying bundles of much needed goods. Overall, Kerry loves volunteering with an organisation that directly supports the asylum seekers and refugees living in the west – and meeting with our other wonderful volunteers too. 


    Liz is also a local resident of Williamstown and over the past four years has worked on the linen and kitchen packs that go out to people who require them. She also works on other activities such as sorting out donations, placing them into the correct storage areas at the warehouse and creating the packs for distributions to the families.

    Liz has previously worked in the education industry with disadvantaged groups in the western suburbs for almost 40 years. She continues to be passionate about helping others and enjoys working in a team with like-minded people. When she retired, West Welcome Wagon was a great fit for Liz as she was able to put her organisational and communication skills to work while helping support asylum seekers and refugees who needed to set up a new home and establish a better life for themselves. She can give back to the community that she loves. 

    Liz dedicates one morning a week to West Welcome Wagon and sees the volume of items distributed to the families who need them. She believes that the work of West Welcome Wagon is not only important but is an essential service to the asylum seekers and refugees in our community. 

    “I can’t imagine how many families would cope without these items and assistance provided by West Welcome Wagon,” she said.

    Another benefit that Liz sees is that most of the goods are pre-loved, ensuring items are re-homed, rather than ending up in landfill. 


    Phil is a local resident of Williamstown and currently volunteers for West Welcome Wagon helping with small goods delivery. He has been volunteering for the last five years and has previously assisted with the furniture and large goods runs too. One of the reasons that Phil volunteered with West Welcome Wagon was because of his strong beliefs in the rights of asylum seekers and refugees. 

    He continues to volunteer because, “it really fills your heart when you see the people we visit smile and give their profuse thanks, I have seen some real cases or hardship among our people.” 

    He once did a delivery for a family with five children who needed beds. Before the delivery was made, Phil realised that the family must have been sleeping on the floor. The mother and father were in tears of joy and did an impromptu dance of gratitude when they arrived with beds for them all. It was a delivery that made Phil a bit teary. 

    Phil enjoys volunteering as it’s a way to give back to the community, and he likes that West Welcome Wagon offers solutions to improving the lives of asylum seekers and refugees who are our neighbours. 

    Are you interested in volunteering for West Welcome Wagon? 

    We have volunteers from all walks of life and have a variety of roles available from volunteering in the warehouse, sorting/packing goods, creating bundles, delivering items and even assisting with calling families, fundraising sausage sizzles, graphics work – the list is endless.

    If you are interested in volunteering with West Welcome Wagon, we would love to match up your skill sets with our needs so we can continue this important work for members of our community. 

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    Our content is a labour of love, crafted by dedicated volunteers who are passionate about the west. We encourage submissions from our community, particularly stories about your own experiences, family history, local issues, your suburb, community events, local history, human interest stories, food, the arts, and environmental matters. Below are articles created by community contributors. You can find their names in the bylines.

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