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 olds...one 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?