My photo
I ran away from teaching to the country to grow veggies. There are also some chooks and a pair of troublesome goats who were so much trouble they had to go! My simple green life isn't always as simple or as green as I'd like...but I keep trying!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

International Year of Volunteering + 10.

Did you know 2011 is the 
(It is ten years on from 2001- the international Year of Volunteering)

Australians, most recently witnessed the power of volunteers following the devastating floods in different parts of the country.  Hundreds, maybe thousands of people, turned up when the water receded, with their brooms, rakes and gum boots to help those affected.  I heard one woman on the radio, sounding quite overwhelmed,  say that there were suddenly ten people at her door.  In no time they had cleared her house and helped to remove the mud.  And the street was full of them!

Although heart warming, this isn't that unusual in Australia where volunteerism is huge.  Lots of, not for profit organisations could not operate without their armies of unpaid helpers.  After the devastating bushfires in Victoria two years ago people rallied around.  One notable example was, Blaze Aid, which was set up by an 'ordinary bloke' who organized huge numbers of people to help to rebuild burned fences on properties all over the state.  He rang radio stations and set up a web site.  Companies gave workers the day off to go and dig holes and string wire.  People even came from overseas to help out.  All they had to do was turn up on the day at a given place and they were shown what to do, fed and watered. 

Australia's rural fire brigades and the State Emergency Squads are almost entirely made up of volunteers.  But they are far from amateurs as they take part in regular practice and training and are highly skilled.

Professor Melanie Oppenheimer of the University of Western Sydney carried out research into volunteerism.  She found that over 34% of Australians, over the age of 18 volunteer with the highest rates outside capital cities. Volunteers are often the lifeblood of local communities and it is estimated that volunteering contributes, each year, over 700 million hours of labour and 42 billion dollars to the Australian economy.

It isn't a one way street though.  Volunteers are rewarded in non-monetary terms by their involvement. A survey carried out at the end of last year found that 83% of volunteers said their volunteer work increased their sense of belonging to their community.  Volunteering also provides the volunteers with an opportunity to feel as if they have made a difference so it enhances participation in a democratic society.  Another key finding was that volunteers often receive training and develop skills that may lead to paid work.  

There is even an organisation called Volunteering Australia that matches volunteers with organisations.

I love the idea of volunteering.  Too much of this world is run according to 'The Market' and 'The Economy' and 'Big Business' and 'Trade' and 'Consumerism' for my taste.  
Volunteering goes against all of these things.  For me it is very personal and an integral part of my efforts to reduce my impact on the planet.  I can do something, without cost to others, but which can make a difference.

I am retired but I am also highly trained and skilled.  It seems a shame to waste this, so I have offered to run a program three days a week at the local primary school. I get to teach reading and writing to 3 cute little seven year at a time for half an hour each.  I know, from experience, that this will make a huge difference to these little people over time.  

Best of all, it gets me up and out of bed in the morning and there is plenty of the day left to do the other things I like.

If you have been following the blog, you will know that one of my New Year's Resolutions was to work in the local Op Shop and I started yesterday.

Here it is!
Cute isn't it? And it is right next to the General Store who make a reasonable latté.

I sold $40 worth of goods in the four hours I was there.

It was great when people came in and it is going to be a fantastic way to meet people in this tiny community.  But I must admit it was a bit boring in between customers.
I will have to take some knitting or sewing or reading or something next time.

I will also leave my purse at home so I won't be tempted, like I was today, by some fabric and knitting needles.

I am interested in what goes on around the world so let me know....
Is volunteering big in other places? 
Do you volunteer?


  1. Oh Hazel I think this is just brilliant. I love that we are not losing out on skills and talent that took years and years to develop, and I love that you are using them to continue to contribute to society. And I am dead jealous of the op shop position, it's my dream to work in one - but not for altruistic reasons! I love op shop clothes and would love to be there for first pick! Ooo that's bad hey!

    I only do one thing that I kind of consider as volunteering, once a week Felix and I go to his elder brother's school and help out with gross motor skills. It's really just ball sports, but they have a fancy name for it now. I would also like to volunteer for tuckshop duty, but will have to wait for another year as it's against regulations for me to take Felix. Which is silly, but there you go.

    Good on you Hazel, I wish you were volunteering at my boy's school :)

    ps I can't see the op shop photo, much to my disappointment :(

  2. I love op shops there used to be a second hand shop on the kibbutz but they did not have a clue they were charging the same prices as if it was new so they soon went out of business
    Well done Hazel I also help children with their English homework

  3. Hazel, this volunteering thing is not big in the UK I'm afraid. Our Prime Minister David Cameron is trying to drum up support for the concept of The Big Society, which is based on the sort of principles you describe, but it hasn't really caught on yet, because people perceive it as simply the Govt trying to avoid their responsibilities and save some money!
    In the Op shop are you allowed to sell plants? Maybe you could have a little side-line there and sell on some of your surplus seedlings?

  4. I'm glad that you're leaving your purse at home (only enough money in your pocket to buy a latte maybe?) as I could see many 'treasures' coming home with you.
    Well done for volunteering in both cases and hope the animals don't get up to too much mischief while you are absent!

  5. Hi Hazel, volunteering is very important and a big part of society in Northern Ireland. We have a good number of charities large and small. I think the last research done said that sport, church and family support/care had the largest number of volunteer involvement. I volunteer occassionally with a conservation charity and I volunteer weekly with a charity that works with young people. It's great to hear you're active in volunteering.

  6. I'm really glad you are helping out at the school as well. It would be such a shame to have specialist skills going to waste. Volunteering in Tasmania is very common and maybe that is directly attributable to the small communities that we are in reality compared to the rest of Australia. Not only the retired but also the working. The only groups I found absolutely devoid and confounding were the school groups. Lions and Rotary are still huge here but I think the Op shop ladies are an aging population as many have turned away from structured and practicing religions.

  7. I find it very interesting that volunteering is big in Northern Ireland but not in England. i would have liked to have heard from readers in the U.S. Oh Well. Tanya the Op shop I volunteer in is run by the local community house and the funds go to all manner of local groups including the school, fire brigade, and the community house. School groups are a vital part of schools but I know, from experience, that they can be a bit exclusive and cliquey. Young Ali, whatever you do at school is it helps to develop a relationship with the teachers. Your boy will see that you consider school important. Good on you!


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