723 Squadron’s Able Seaman Jye Alexander says the simple act of putting his hand up to volunteer to show a group of children around a Navy helicopter was a life-changing one.
“I was on deployment in Darwin and we were hosting a visit from Camp Quality.
"At that stage I knew very little about the charity but once I met these amazing kids and learnt about the hard times they faced, and saw how they bravely they faced them, I knew that I really wanted to help out in whatever way I could," Able Seman Alexander said.
Camp Quality is a children’s cancer charity which believes in bringing optimism and happiness to the lives of children and families affected by cancer and for the last 12 months Able Seaman Alexander has worked for Camp Quality as a volunteer, regularly visiting children in hospital and more recently assisting at a five day camp at Lake Burrendong Sport and Recreation.
These camps help equip the children to deal with challenges in a fun, safe environment, bring fun and optimism back into their lives and, most importantly, provide the opportunity to just feel like a normal child having normal fun.
“My main role is that of companion which involves being a combination parent/friend to the kids for the duration of the camp”, Able Seaman Alexander said.
“I was given two 10 year old boys to look after and it was my responsibility to ensure they stayed safe for the duration of the camp but I also wanted to make sure they had the most fun that they possibly could.
"This was especially important as life has not been the easiest for these kids.”
Most 23 year olds would be fazed by this enormous responsibility but not Able Seaman Alexander.
“It can be challenging”, he said.
“You are a parent to a lot of kids and it is non stop from 6am to 11pm every single day with activities such as rock climbing, flying fox, canoeing, kayaking, archery, sports, fun therapy, abseiling but it’s incredibly rewarding.
“Just seeing these kids laughing and smiling and building their confidence back up after the experience of going through treatments for cancer at such a young age is an amazing thing to be part of."
Another highlight of the camp was the arrival of a Bell 429 from 723 Squadron and the opportunity for the children to meet the crew Lieutenant Rob Garnock, and Sub Lieutenant Matthew Raufers and inspect the helicopter.
“The kids and volunteers all cheered very, very loudly and continuously as the helicopter approached and I marshalled it in,” Able Seaman Alexander said.
"And then when the pilot stepped out of the helicopter they cheered loudly and continuously again."
“It was a very proud moment for myself and Navy as the kids were so appreciative and excited and it was for such a good cause."