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Homeless Connect Perth intern won’t be boxed in by desk job

27 March, 2020

The University of WA Medical Sciences student Manul Koralage was never going to be content with an internship sitting at a computer all day.

During his McCusker Centre for Citizenship internship with Volunteering WA, the 19-year-old clocked up hundreds of kilometres on the road collecting Homeless Connect Perth donation boxes from more than 30 organisations across Perth.

“Driving around collecting boxes, I saw the different sides of Perth and met many different people from corporate volunteers from Woodside to small business owners,” he said.

“Everyone, no matter their background, had decided that their time and effort was worth supporting the homeless of Perth, and their fight against their situation.”

The donation drive culminated in the Homeless Connect Perth event on 13 November, 2019 – during which those afflicted by homelessness received services, goods, food and entertainment that would be hard to come by otherwise.

Gosnells resident Mr Koralage said his responsibilities during the 100-hour community service internship were instrumental in ensuring the annual event was a success.

“As the coordinator of the donation drive, my impact was through the goods and food ‘shop’,” Mr Koralage explained.

“These shops were set up so that the guests could go in, take whatever they wanted for free and then go ahead and enjoy the rest of the event.

“The goods available were donated clothes, toiletries, books and non-perishable food. My job was to ensure that these shops were stocked to the brim with donated goods, so that there wouldn't be a shortage of goods by the end.”

Volunteering WA Marketing & Communications Manager Naz Macri said Mr Koralage played an “integral role” in providing essential support to those who were experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

“He showed great initiative, dedication and an incredible passion for the cause,” Ms Macri said.

“We were extremely lucky to have him part of the team.”

Although his internship had many rewarding elements, Mr Koralage said the day of the Homeless Connect Perth event was especially memorable.

“It was a surreal moment when everything came together,” he said.

“Weeks of hard work all culminated in a very large turnout, which led to the event being a great success.”

On a personal note, Mr Koralage said the McCusker Centre for Citizenship internship helped him realise that a desk job was “simply not for him”.

“I need to have a physical component to complement any sitting down and working,” he said. 

“In my future, I would love to be more involved in the organisational aspects of events. I find organisation to be a very rewarding experience, albeit with its stressors at times.”