Posted by Tim Wills on Oct 03, 2023
An excellent example of Rotary meeting the needs and aspirations of youth, the environment and the community. 

In late July, a young and enthusiastic student named Andrew Mills, hailing from Drouin Secondary College and pursuing his VCE, approached the Drouin Rotary Club with an intriguing proposition. Andrew and three of his fellow students had set their sights on a community service project, a vital component of their Vocational Major requirements. Their ambitious project? The refurbishment of the stairs leading to Labertouche Caves.

This project struck a chord with the Drouin Rotary Club, which had already supported a similar endeavour in the previous year. Embracing this opportunity with open arms, Leigh Bates took the lead. After several meetings with the students and several site visits, they collaborated with Parks Victoria Senior Ranger, Andrew Musgrove, to draft a comprehensive project and works plan. With Parks Victoria's seal of approval, the stage was set.

Fast-forward to early September, and the dedicated group comprising the students, Andrew Musgrove, and four Rotarians embarked on a journey to the project site. Over the course of three days, they poured their heart and soul into the task at hand. Their collective effort amounted to a staggering 126 volunteer hours.

The fruits of their labour extended beyond replacing dilapidated steps with sturdy new stone ones. The team worked tirelessly to repair other worn-out stairs, enhance traction on slippery steps, and remove obsolete fencing wire and posts. It was a comprehensive makeover that breathed new life into the area.

The students' drive and initiative thoroughly impressed Andrew Musgrove, the Parks Victoria Senior Ranger. He remarked, "I was impressed by the students' initiative to support the project in the early phase and involving the experienced crew from the Drouin Rotary Club. The team worked exceptionally well together, providing a shining example of effective project management from start to finish. I hope they can leverage this experience for future job opportunities. All team members worked safely and used teamwork to achieve the goal."

Reflecting on their transformative experience, Andrew Mills, one of the students, shared his perspective. "Fixing the staircase to the Labertouche Caves was a lot of fun and an awesome opportunity. It's not often in school that you get to venture outside of the classroom to complete 'school work' that leaves you with a profound sense of accomplishment and a lasting impact on an area. I believe I learned more valuable life skills from this single project than I have throughout the entire year at school. I also want to express my immense gratitude to the Rotary Club and Andrew Musgrove for sticking with us on what was quite an ambitious school project, given the remote location and tight timeframe we had to work with."

Andrew Musgrove chimed in, highlighting another delightful aspect of their experience. "Another highlight was Leigh's lunches from Drouin Rotary, which nourished us and added value by fostering great conversations during our work experience."

Rotary possesses the transformative power to ignite change, foster robust networks, and unlock boundless opportunities in every community it touches. This is one such project that will deliver a lasting benefit to everyone who visits the Labertouche Caves. It shows that Rotary is in tune with the community and can work with various groups to make a difference.