For Ben Davies, time spent at idyllic coastal tourist destinations isn’t always a holiday.
For most of us, a trip to Hawaii would probably mean relaxing on Waikiki Beach, soaking up the sun and surf.
Not so for Ben Davies, a Salvo from Victoria. The university student spent nine months of his recent gap year at The Salvation Army Revolution Hawaii camp. It was a ‘holiday with
His decision to head to the north shore of Oahu came after hearing about the camp at Salvation Army youth events he had attended over the years.
“One of the regular guest speakers at Summer Carnival [a Salvo youth event] was from Hawaii and he would talk about the work they were doing to meet some of the pressing needs in their community,” Ben says.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about signing up and, after talking with my parents, I was on my way.”
Ben and his fellow Revolution Hawaii participants took part in regular Bible study sessions which emphasised how to apply that teaching in practical ways, such as in outreach programs to those experiencing homelessness, helping at local Salvo rehabilitation centres and rolling up their sleeves to work on projects benefiting youth.
“The biggest thing for me was an opportunity to serve people where they were in need,” Ben says. “It was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life, making people feel loved and valued.”
It was such a rewarding time that Ben then decided to sign up for The Salvation Army USA West’s ‘Service Corps’ program, which sees teams of five or six young adults travel to different corps (churches), summer camps and other programs to help out in whatever way they can. At the end of an itinerary that included serving at five local churches, Ben worked as a leader at a summer camp.
The biggest thing for me was an opportunity to serve people where they were in need.
These programs may have taken Ben to some great destinations, but that is simply a bonus. His motivation is the opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives wherever it is needed.
Last month, Ben was at another beach, this time much closer to home. But, true to form, the 22-year-old wasn’t kicking back on the sand.
Joining more than 4,500 volunteers across Australia, he was part of the Red Frogs program for schoolies at Torquay, on Victoria’s surf coast. Red Frogs started in 1997 on the Gold Coast to be a support for teenagers celebrating the end of their schooling.
Now in 16 popular schoolies locations around the country, Red Frogs volunteers provide practical assistance, such as pancake cook-ups, room visits, and a 24/7 call centre where schoolies can call for someone to walk them home or offer advice if they feel unsafe. They also provide water and, of course, hand out the signature red frog lollies.
“We weren’t there to stop people having fun,” Ben says. “It’s about people knowing that if they need someone, we’re there for them.”
Whether it is in Hawaii or Torquay, or somewhere else, Ben plans to continue going where he can to help those in need. He is quick to point out, though, that he has received plenty in return.
“Serving through mission has helped me grow in myself. I’ve learned to engage with people, and it’s helped me build confidence,” he says. “I never feel more myself than when I am serving others and trying to show them the love God has shown me.”