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Photo of Rab Thynne infront of a graphical background with a kids playground, and xbox controller

From the playground to the virtual sandbox: Rab Thynne’s local approach to volunteering sees huge impact

This Microsoft ANZ employee and father of two saw an opportunity to help his local public school and stepped up to make a difference.

Twenty-one years ago, Rab Thynne landed his first job at Microsoft through what he calls “a happy mistake”. Since then, he’s thrived in roles spanning infrastructure and strategy consultancy, enterprise consulting, technical specialisation and sales.

Now, Rab is an Enterprise Channel Manager for Business Applications Sales.

Old photograph of a dad driving a mower with two children
Growing up, Rab’s father (pictured on the mower) taught him a lot of woodworking skills.

Microsoft employees have much to offer the world, and this is supported by initiatives like the three days of paid volunteering leave every year. Rab is setting an amazing example on how to make the most out of opportunities to volunteer.

“For many years, I’d just tag along with any volunteer opportunity that came up. I’ve volunteered on farms, in aged care homes, and with organisations like the Smith Family,” he says.

“While these were all rewarding experiences, I wanted to contribute something that used the skills and experiences unique to me.”

Rab explains that volunteering can have a far greater impact if people think hard about how they can give back to their local communities.

Building something better

When the playground at Bardon State School in Queensland where Rab’s own children go to school was in need of repair, he took matters into his own hands.

A man of many talents, he worked closely with the Parents and Citizens Association and school staff, taking personal responsibility for sourcing the materials, coordinating the project, and rebuilding parts of the playground.

“I grew up on a rural property where you’ve got to have hands-on skills, and my father taught me a lot of woodworking skills,” he explains.

Four tonnes of wood, a broken drill, 80 hours of work, 1,000 screws and one speeding ticket later, the playground was revamped and ready for the students to enjoy.

His work saved the school thousands in labour and other costs. But more importantly, it gave the Prep, Year 1 and Year 2 students full access to their playground again.

In the time it took Rab to get the playground up and running, he became more familiar with the school’s improvement agenda. This got him thinking about how he could utilise his IT skills to contribute to the school in more creative ways.

Adult male sitting on the top of a newly renovated kid's playground
Rab Thynne (pictured) helped repair his children’s school playground, using the time offered by Microsoft’s volunteering days.

There are lots of other parents at Microsoft and I think it would be really valuable if we could do more to support our schools and raise the next generation to be empowered and engaged.

Encouraging creative kids

Bonded over a mutual passion for Minecraft, Rab and his son approached the school about starting a Minecraft lunch club. Minecraft for Education creates an intellectually stimulating experience for young children. It has been shown to improve collaboration, time management, mathematical reasoning and problem-solving skills as well as basic coding skills.

Supported by the Principal and a passionate teacher (and fellow Minecraft enthusiast), the Minecraft club the program was soon up and running.

The response from students was so overwhelming that the lunchtime club soon expanded to five days a week, complementing the existing STEM Clubs in the school.

Rab is working with Microsoft ANZ Learning Consultant Amanda Frampton, who is sharing resources, including her own time, to train teachers to run the program on a larger scale. Ryan McIvor, Account Executive for Queensland Education, and Trent Clayphan, Account Technical Strategist for Queensland Education, are helping to apply insights from other schools that have implemented the program.

A lasting impact

According to Bardon State School Principal Jill Rutland, volunteers add massive value to the school community – whether in the playground, classroom, or the Parents & Citizens Committee for fundraising.

“We’re always looking for opportunities to enrich the students’ educational experience and nurture their individual interests,” says Rutland.

It’s amazing to see parents use their skills and time to complete projects like this playground renovation and the Minecraft program. The children benefit massively.

Rab feels that this work will set up a model by which future generations of volunteers can help schools around Australia and New Zealand and maybe even the world. “We can safely pass on the baton to the next lot of children and parents that come into our school community who will have learnt from the work we did,” he says.

Rab exemplifies how individuals can make a tremendous impact by identifying opportunities in their local communities and driving the changes they want to see.

“I want to make a real impact in my community,” he explains. “I want to leave behind more than I take from this world.”