KARABAR resident Alexa Pelkowitz is so passionate about volunteering she has dedicated her gap year to helping young people.
This week Miss Pelkowitz, 19, was named the 2013 South Coast/Southern Inland Youth Volunteer of the Year. Michael Harrison of Jerrabomberra was also named the 2013 Illawarra Individual Volunteer of the Year.
Miss Pelkowitz has been involved in the junior youth empowerment program through her religion, the Baha'i faith. She said it's important for young people to realise that they can bring about change in the world.
"I work as a mentor to other youth members aged from 12-15-years-old. I see this period as really important because you're in a stage of transition," she said.
"You're no longer a child but not quite yet an adult, there are all these social forces that influence you in what you grow up to be."
Miss Pelkowitz has emphasised to younger people the value of giving back to their neighbourhood just as she has done.
"For me it comes from the belief that our lives aren't just about us as a singular, we have to contribute to the advancements of our community and we have the capacity to better it," she said.
"We need to have a bit of selflessness ... you actually have to spend time thinking about others. When you see injustices you have to work and do your bit and help make it better."
Mr Harrison, 20, is also involved in a number of youth initiatives in his volunteer work with the Red Cross. He is involved in a number of different areas including as the ACT/SE NSW Youth Representative on housing and homelessness.
"You really see people being impacted by different levels of homelessness. I was surprised about just how many people are affected by youth homelessness," he said.
"It's growing, particularly the number of people affected by secondary homeless. The amount of people who spend their lives couch surfing, they have no permanent address and it's constantly hoping that someone will take you in.
"Seeing what a slippery slope it is for people to fall into major homelessness and the strain on the system when there are so many people struggling."
Mr Harrison also sits on local branches of the Youth Action Committee and International Humanitarian Law Committee.
He said the award was unexpected and he is now in the running to win the 2013 NSW Volunteer of the year award with the winner announced in December.
"The thing I enjoy about volunteering is I really love being able to meet people," he said.
"There's something really nice in being involved in something and seeing the impacts it has on people."