Forster Pacific Palms SES unit commander Greg Dodd remembers he and his siblings making a lot of their own fun as kids.
Growing up alongside 10 brothers and sisters, and with little money to go around, he found enjoyment outdoors on the various farms and properties they lived on around the Great Lakes.
But one thing that never appealed to him was school.
With no interest in sitting in classrooms, he left at 14 to go work on farms and muster cattle.
Unfortunately, he never learned to read or write.
Finding work wasn't much trouble, with Greg transitioning from farm work to furniture removal to 14 years at the Bungwahl sawmill, but it was after he met his wife and started a family that his lack of literacy became an obstacle.
"My kids used to come home from school and say, 'Dad, can you help me with this?' and I'd say, 'No, you'll have to get your mother to help you,'" he said.
"I started thinking I should've paid more attention, taken it more seriously."
Unable to read to his kids, Greg sought a tutor, but after she moved away, he didn't make much headway with learning to read or write until he joined the Taree SES unit 10 years ago.
"I wanted to give back to the community," he said.
"There was a young girl who joined at the same time - she had a heart of gold - and she said, 'I'll help you.'"
With someone helping him with the written components of the SES, Greg was able to get through aspects of it that would've otherwise proved too difficult.
He even picked up a bit of reading and writing along the way.
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But then he got into what he described as "a bad space", a time in his life where "I didn't want to be here, didn't want to know anyone".
Needing a change, he transferred to the Nabiac SES and it was here, whilst administering a cadet program at Bulahdelah, he found the inspiration to overcome the challenges he was facing.
Recognising that some of the kids in the program had bigger problems than him, he vowed to do something about not being able to read or write.
"They were good kids - they made me feel good and got me back on track," he said.
"If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be here today."
Four years ago, Greg enrolled in an adult literacy program at Taree TAFE, and the transformation has been remarkable.
"Seeing him grow in his skills and confidence has been amazing," adult literacy teacher, Kate Fazio, said.
"We've seen incredible improvement in his reading comprehension and his writing skills."
Since he started attending, Greg has published a small book to help other TAFE students, improved his numeracy as well as his literacy, and completed a computer course.
He also reads to his grandchildren now - an activity he takes great pleasure in.
Greg admits the achievement has had a profound effect on his life as a whole.
If someone can't read or write or do whatever, get up and give them a hand, don't just push them aside.Greg Dodd
"I have a lot more respect for myself," he said.
"I'm not afraid to do things anymore."
Appointed to the role of Forster Pacific Palms SES unit commander eighteen months ago - a position he said he wouldn't have been able to do had he not learned to read and write - he's taken his newfound attitude into the organisation, and he's determined to help others grow.
"A lot of organisations want your skills to be really high and it scares people off," he said.
"I want to break down those barriers. The SES is open to anyone."
And he's got a message for anyone struggling to overcome the obstacles they're facing.
"Take the initiative, get up and have a go. People will help you. I'm not going to let anything take me back to where I was."
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