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Dream volunteer role for history buff

Hayden Claessens in front of the National ANZAC centre

Hayden Claessens’ love of history led to him taking on a volunteer role at the Albany Heritage Park site.

A love of military history has led to Hayden Claessens, 21, taking on volunteer roles at Albany’s Old Gaol and Museum and the Albany Heritage Park, home to the National Anzac Centre building.

Hayden, who has autism, volunteers two days a week. One day a week he welcomes visitors to the National Anzac Centre’s guard house, distributes maps and directs and informs people about the history of other buildings on-site. On the other day he welcomes visitors to the Old Gaol and provides a guided tour.

His mother, Sue, said Hayden has always loved history and over the past 10 years had been particularly interested in military history.

“He studies books on weapons, countries involved in military conflicts and dates when these events occurred,” Sue said.

“We visited the National Anzac Centre in 2014 as a family and enquired about volunteer roles for him, with the aim of moving to Albany (from Ocean Reef) in the near future.

“We moved to Albany in April 2015 and from there we conversed with the volunteer coordinator at the centre to begin Hayden’s training.

“Hayden loves his role – visitors are always amazed at how much knowledge he has to share with them.”

Hayden also works three days a week at Activ Albany in the woodwork and printing departments.

Sue said Hayden enjoyed an active social life in Albany, with support from the Commission’s Local Area Coordinator Stephanie Warren.

“Hayden has coped beautifully with the move from Perth,” Sue said.

“As parents, we made all of these contacts before the shift and had all of them in place.”

Albany Heritage Park Administration Officer Hannah Wisniewski said Hayden had been a wonderful addition to the volunteering team.

“He has such a great sense of humour, an incredible mind for facts and is sunny and positive with our visitors,” she said.

“It was very straightforward engaging Hayden because he is so passionate about military history and has a wonderfully supportive family who are always flexible and willing to discuss any issues with me.

“It’s a pleasure having him with us – his dedication and willingness are an outstanding asset to our team.”

Dream volunteer role for history bu