Reflecting on National Volunteer Week 2021
National Volunteer Week in Australia was held between 17th – 23rd of May 2021, and this year Volunteering Australia’s had some equally heartening and disappointing statistics to reveal. While the pandemic has affected us all, during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia in 2020, two out of three volunteers stopped volunteering, which works out to be an estimated loss of 12.2 million hours per week.
The most precious gift you can give is time
National Volunteer Week is an annual celebration and recognition of Australia’s almost six million volunteers who contribute to their community. Together, they give up over 600 million hours of their precious time to help others. That’s almost 70,000 years! Unfortunately, as most of have experienced personally, there were extended periods of last year when only essential services were operating, resulting unsurprisingly in a dramatic decline of volunteering numbers. Unfortunately, a January 2021 survey by Volunteering Australia shows that volunteering numbers are not ‘snapping back,’ even as COVID restrictions lift, with nearly three quarters of respondents saying their volunteer programs were not fully operational. The theme for National Volunteer Week 2021 was Recognise, Reconnect, Reimagine:
- RECOGNISE, celebrate and thank volunteers for the vital role they play in our lives,
- RECONNECT to what is important by giving our time to help others and ourselves,
- REIMAGINE how we better support volunteers and communities they help.
The benefits of volunteering
The neuroscience of gratitude (or simply, the science behind being thanked) shows that we gain a sense of satisfaction from being thanked. Gratitude helps in building long term relationships and helps people to deal with adversities. When we hear a simple “thank you” for a service performed, our brains release dopamine and serotonin, the two crucial neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) responsible for our emotions, and they give us that warm feeling inside, enhance our mood and make us feel happy. Gratitude can also significantly reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Help more in your community through volunteering
Volunteering can connect us to other likeminded people in our community and is a good way to interact with others. It can also be a potential pathway to employment by gaining experience. Volunteering also gives the added benefit of providing necessary assistance to those in need and benefitting the volunteer with a sense of satisfaction and purpose. Volunteering Australia is the national peak body for volunteering and can be contacted by calling (02) 6251 4060 or visiting www.volunteeringaustralia.org.
What sort of volunteering opportunities are available?
Based on your skills or interests, there are a huge number of different organisations that have open volunteering options;
- Retail/Op Shop – There are many services like the St Vincent de Paul Society that assist people in need and aim to fight social injustice across Australia. They are always in need of volunteers to run their retail shops. This can be a useful way to gain shop experience before applying for a first job.
- Social home visit to elderly – Rather than having elderly visit centres, some organisations will have volunteers visit their clients in their homes, whether it is to bring them a meal once a day, or just to sit and have a chat once a week.
- Red Cross “TeleCross” – The Australian Red Cross runs a service that enables a welfare phone call to be placed each day to check on vulnerable individuals to check they’re okay. This can be done volunteering from your own home.
- Animal welfare – There are many animal welfare groups in need of volunteers, with help needed for things like temporary homes for sick or injured wildlife, forester home for pets needing love and animal transportation.
- Indigenous Australians – Visit local Aboriginal cultural centres or contact your local council to see how you can help in your local Aboriginal community. Respect for Elders, the land, animals and ancestors are fundamental aspects of Aboriginal culture. Remember that many Aboriginal events need volunteers as well (e.g. Survival Day celebrations).
- School – Parents will be familiar with the school’s never-ending need for volunteers to help at the canteen, in the uniform shop, junior reading programs and supervision on excursions and at sporting events.
- Administration assistance – Many small organisations can’t afford to employ people to manage the paperwork. You can assist by doing the administration for small community centres who are busy helping with things like making sure the local school children have a healthy breakfast, teaching seniors to use their mobile phones and handing out food boxes to those in need (all of these are also volunteering options!). This sort of skill-based volunteering also looks great on a resume, if you’re in between jobs or retraining for a new career.
Help in the ConnectAbility community
ConnectAbility would not be able to offer as many programs that help local people living with a disability, older community members or people looking to connect with the local community without its many volunteers. ConnectAbility has several volunteering opportunities throughout our organisation. Our “Community Buddies” Program links customers and trained volunteers based on their mutual interests and location to participate in common interests and activities within our disability service.
We also look for volunteers to assist older members of the community to shop, attend appointments or enjoy our friendship groups, where people come together for a meal, entertainment and good company, or be out enjoying the community together. We also need volunteers to help with many of the activities run through our Jesmond Neighbourhood Centre to help set up, support the community garden or assist at an event.
Connect with others through ConnectAbility Australia
When you consider that over 90% of volunteers report seeing a positive change as a result of their efforts, it’s easy to see why people reach out through volunteering to connect with their communities. You can visit ConnectAbility at our new purpose-built premises which located at 26 Warabrook Boulevard, Warabrook. We are also located at 4 Karalta Lane, Erina. You can email or call us at Warabrook or Erina. If you think you or someone you know could benefit from our services, please make a referral online and we will be in touch as soon as possible.