Maurice Marcelo immigrated to Perth in 1999 when she was 15, just at that age when most teenagers are well settled into the routine of high school with an established group of friends. But in 2001, Maurice asked her parents if she could return to the Philippines as she no longer wanted to be in Australia. Despite having school friends, they just did not have the same interests and hobbies and she ultimately felt lonely.
After careful consideration and realising how homesick she was her parents took her to their local travel agent to book her one-way flight home. As she and her parents sat down, the travel agent who happened to be the President of Filipino Australian Sports Association (FASA Inc.) Maurice remembers “asked my parents if I was going to the Philippines for a holiday. We told her that I was leaving Australia for good”.
She immediately encouraged me to stay and told us that there is a club where Filipinos play basketball and volleyball. The moment she said the word volleyball I instantly forgot about wanting to go home and all I wanted was to join and play”.
Maurice has been playing with the group for 20 years now. It was all she looked forward to every weekend. She has met most of her closest friends through playing volleyball and they have become her family here in Australia. As she got older, she started to volunteer helping the events coordinator organise fundraisers, competitions, and the annual awards night. For 2 years, she volunteered as the Association Secretary and continued to promote the club. “Joining a sports club actually kept me away from drugs, and alcohol, it taught me life skills, how to communicate, and kept me healthy. If it had not been for the intervention of this travel agent, I might never have had these opportunities”.
During this time Maurice made another important connection in her life, at her very first training session in fact – she met Tani. They became teammates, good friends, and then partners just recently celebrating their 20th anniversary.
Back in 2018, tired of missing out on opportunities to compete due to a lack of funds and administrative coordination, Maurice and a few of her friends started the United Volleyball Club. Their idea was to create a club that embraced new members and encouraged them to feel confident in creating new friendships. To provide an environment where people could feel they belong and were not alone, that they could achieve in life or in volleyball, a space they could feel supported and eventually have the courage to approach larger volleyball clubs to pursue more from their Volleyball game. In Maurice’s words, they are a “Feel Good Club”.
The club also has a strong focus on fundraising to provide more opportunities for people to play and compete. In the future they want to travel to less fortunate communities overseas to help them access equipment and encourage them to play and spread their message of sport bringing people together.