Our Staff – Simon Chong – July 2015

Why I volunteer – Simon Chong


People volunteer for many different reasons. Some people volunteer to gain career experience and develop new skills.

Others volunteer as a result of instilled values they have, that compel them to help others. And some people volunteer because they want a better understanding about different people, gaining an understanding of their community and themselves. Simon volunteers because he wants to give back to the community. Because he is grateful for the help, he received from others.

Simon is legally blind, Leber Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON) an inherited form of vision loss took away 90% of his sight when he was 18. As a child he enjoyed an idyllic life in Perth, making the most of the climate and outdoor lifestyle the city offers. Simon’s parents were aware that he and his brother might be affected by LHON – he has two cousins who contracted it in their childhood, as he reached his late teens it was hoped the disease had passed him by. 

He was coming close to finishing an apprenticeship when Simon realised something was not quite right. He started making excuses to his mates about driving because he wasn’t confident in his vision. However the day he had to ask a friend what colour the traffic lights were it hit home. The onset of LHON was sudden; it was November when he first realised something was not right, by February the next year the disease had taken its toll.  

His disability has not deterred Simon. He moved from Perth to NSW to experience life in the eastern states. The move to Victoria followed a heart-to-heart with a close friend about the direction his life was taking. Following this discussion, Simon decided to come to Melbourne and participate in Leadership Plus, a program that encourages diversity inclusion, fostering active citizenship. The program taught him a lot about how to navigate around business procedures, along with programs in public speaking and governance. 

Simon has a wide range of interests from politics to football (he is a member or the Fremantle  Dockers cheer squad and goes to most of the Melbourne games). He loves Melbourne’s healthy music scene saying,  “It almost makes up for the weather”. And he enjoys the diversity of the city and the range of entertainment options. “Perth’s idea of entertainment in a trip to the beach followed by a backyard BBQ. Whereas Melbournians’’ have to be more inventive about their social activities because of the climate” he says.

Simon has had a long relationship with IDS, initially as a housing client, keeping in touch with the team through our newsletter and other IDS clients. It was following an IDS Seminar on housing that Simon approached us to ask if he could offer his services as a volunteer. That was over 12 months ago now, and Simon has become an integral part of the team, undertaking a range of administration and support activities including the massive task of transferring our printed files onto electronic copies.

“I was looking for an opportunity to develop my computer and business skills, in an organisation that understood disability, who would support me, while giving me the time and flexibility to work things out for myself. The team have been great, and work hard on behalf of their clients. I would not have stayed on if I did not believe in the work they do and their obvious commitment” said Simon.

In an age where we are becoming more internally focussed it is important to acknowledge the work and commitment of our volunteers, without them many organisations would not survive.

Thank you, Simon, for the work you do on behalf of our clients and the team, from all at IDS.