Community Citizen of the Year: Volunteering makes local and international impact

  • 14 May 2023

When the war in Ukraine broke out last year, there were efforts from people within Western Australia to help those affected, ranging from workplace fundraiser bake sales, to providing a safe new home for refugees who had fled the conflict. People felt the need to make a difference, however big or small, to something that was happening half-way around the world.

For Duncraig mum-of-two, Snezhana Stacey, the feeling to help was personal on a number of levels. Not only is she a Ukrainian expat, but her daughter also has Type 1 diabetes – an overwhelming condition that Snezhana knows, if it goes untreated, can be catastrophic.

family of four

“I came across the Type 1 Foundation in Victoria, which was running a campaign for care packages for Ukrainian refugees. As a mum who is part of the diabetes community, I thought it was excellent and got right on board. I wanted to do the exact same because I know how much they need medical supplies and toothbrushes and toys.”

As an already active volunteer in her community – having volunteered at her children’s school and at the Type 1 Diabetes Family Centre in Stirling – Snezhana called on local people for donations for the care packages. A total of 41 packages were successfully made and then sent to Victoria before making their way to Poland and Ukraine.

“I didn’t expect the result to be what it was. We fundraised and got everything donated – all of the diabetes medical equipment, notebooks, hygiene items, koala toys – and the quality was amazing.”

If this result was unexpected, the next round was nothing short of jaw-dropping.

table of donated items

“The next round, we aimed for 160 packs. It was a big jump, but we thought let’s aim for the sky. When we came into the centre, my husband turned to me and said, “Just prepare yourself.” I thought he was just trying to make me feel good, but I was blown away. People were coming from all over WA, driving three hours, to donate. We ended up sending 250 packs.”

What started as a grassroots effort to send donations overseas, did have an impact closer to home with the arrival of Ukrainian refugees in Perth. Snezhana explains how she could see that the things she was collecting for care packages were also being sought after in Perth. Anything that couldn’t be shipped to Victoria was donated locally.

While Snezhana led the WA drive for donations – the success of which resulted in her being named the 2023 Community Citizen of the Year for the City of Joondalup – she emphasises that she couldn’t have done any of it without the support from the community and local groups.

two women looking at donations table

“It’s not about me – none of this would have been possible without the dedicated people who want to help. I’ve volunteered for a long time and I’ve never felt so supported by my local community. The only thing they wanted was to make a difference. The onflow effect was amazing – people went on to help find refugees jobs, provide food – one thing would lead into another. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s a wonderful thing, especially for the Ukrainian community because it makes us feel seen and people want to learn more about Ukrainian culture.”

Today, Snezhana is still receiving donations right outside her front door. She and her team of volunteers continue to make care packages, but now send them direct from Perth to Ukraine. Local craft clubs make special items and they’ve even been able to secure low postage rates thanks to contacts of the volunteers. The drive may have started in order to help people half-way around the world, but it has clearly led to bringing an entire community together.

group of volunteers

“I want the Community Citizen of the Year Award to recognise everyone who has supported people in Ukraine and the refugees. There are people who have housed refugees for over a year – you don’t do that unless you’re an amazing community. Perth did that.”

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The 2023 Community Citizen of the Year Awards are proudly supported by the Department of Communities, 9 News Perth, 6PR Perth and

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