Time, skills and knowl­edge gen­er­ously shared

Na­tional Vol­un­teer Week is held an­nu­ally in the third week of June.

Central Otago Mirror - - CENTRAL FEATURES -

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.

CON­TIN­UED next page.

Trudy An­der­son and Gil­lian White.

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