Time, skills and knowledge generously shared
National Volunteer Week is held annually in the third week of June.
This year from Sunday 15 to Saturday 21 of June, we celebrate the volunteering community and the invaluable contribution volunteers make in Aotearoa New Zealand.
It is hoped that during the week, volunteers from around the Central Lakes District will be thanked by the organisations or individuals that they generously share their time, skills and knowledge with; and that their huge contribution to the community is recognised.
This may be in the form of a morning tea, a shared lunch or perhaps a thank you card or recognition in the press. Whatever organisations have planned, I hope volunteers everywhere feel valued and that their time is well worth donating.
At Volunteering Central we meet volunteers year round from a huge range of backgrounds, ages and nationalities and connect them to organisations that involve volunteers.
Our youngest volunteer was just 9 years old when I met her and our oldest 84.
In preparation for National Volunteer Week I was keen to find out a bit more about how things look nationally. Statistically slightly more women volunteer than men. There is no great variation between different ethnic groups (based on data collected in 2008) People aged between 40 – 49 volunteer more frequently (based on data collected in 2012) Those people who considering themselves a ‘volunteer’, volunteer on average for 10 hours a month. New Zealand is a leading nation in the contribution made by volunteers.
A 2008 study of the New Zealand Non-profit sector estimated that volunteers make up 67 per cent of non-profit workforce equal to 133,799 full time positions, a higher proportion than in any of the other 40 world countries participating in the research project.
This represents 6.4 per cent of the economically active population.
And why do people put their hands up to help out? I love learning why people volunteer their time to organisations they are passionate about and the reasons are wide and varied; to develop new friendships, to share a skill or interest, to give something back, to improve their health and wellbeing, to gain experience, to try something unique, to do something meaningful, to stand out from the crowd or just to have fun!
However, one thing most people agree on is that the satisfaction gained from contributing to a cause, event or individual, is enough to keep them coming back time after time.
‘‘The rewards from helping people to achieve a better life are much greater than you could ever earn from a few hours extra work,’’ says Dave Hawkins, a volunteer with the Luggate Community Association.
Working with volunteers for around 14 years, I’ve seen volunteers realise the huge potential they have as individuals, bringing about change in themselves, the organisations they support and the wider community as a whole.
I truly believe everyone has something to offer and gain as a volunteer, no matter what their skills, background and experience.
Volunteerism offers an environment for sharing knowledge and skills in a way that benefits the surrounding community.
It is not uncommon for people to hold down one, two, three or even four different jobs in order to live here, but even in this time sparse world, people find time to volunteer with organisations they feel passionate about.
The Central Lakes District attracts a vast array of individuals with diverse skills, interests and backgrounds. Retirees, creative geniuses, sports enthusiasts, nature lovers, young families and those simply seeking a great lifestyle.
Volunteering Central focuses on the four main hubs of Alexandra, Cromwell, Queenstown and Wanaka.
In the two latter locations we meet plenty of international travellers who fall in love with the area, stay as long as they can and whilst they are here want to volunteer to feel connected to their adopted home town and gain that warm cosy glow of satisfaction from giving back to a community that has welcomed them.
Chef Iolanda Davies is one such volunteer. Arriving in Queenstown from her home town of Liverpool, UK, Iolanda is currently considering a range of volunteering opportunities, including The American Express Winter Festival, Wakatipu Senior Citizens, Supportlink Wakatipu and GirlGuiding NZ. So why does Iolanda want to give up her precious time to volunteer in a community she has spent just a matter of months in?
‘‘I love living here and feel Queenstown has such a great sense of community; I’m just keen to give something back,’’ says Iolanda.
She also hopes to gain satisfaction from benefitting someone else, as, despite my best efforts to persuade her otherwise, she feels cooking someone a nice meal is not a memorable event in their lives!
There are also of course many long term locals who are very well established in their communities and often volunteer for numerous organisations.
Serial volunteers such as Vivienne Wilkinson who has lived in Cromwell for twenty years and volunteers her time to the Cromwell Bike Park, Cromwell Swim Club and the Cromwell Junior Football club.
‘‘With two children I am aware there is a lot that needs doing in the community to provide children with opportunities to keep occupied, active and gain new skills; so I volunteer primarily because the need is there,’’ Vivienne says, ‘‘I’m also really aware that through being proactive and donating my time and energy, along with many other volunteers, we are creating a better community for our kids, so although the need is there, I get great satisfaction knowing this and seeing the kids develop.’’
In addition to volunteers assisting people, there are volunteers like Ann Wills who are passionate about their environment.
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Trudy Anderson and Gillian White.