June 24, 2012

The Week That Was

Posted in Celebrations, Good news stories, Language, Recognition of Volunteering, Valuing Volunteers tagged , , , at 5:35 am by Sue Hine

Whew!  The excitement and hype of Volunteer Awareness Week has come to an end – though I hope the messages of appreciation have gone far and wide, and will linger in the ears of volunteers for a while to come.

This year the Week generated more participation and enthusiasm than I have seen in years.  Press releases continued to be issued throughout the week, from such diverse organisations as Department of Conservation, Age Concern, and Coast Guards.  On Facebook there were dozens of daily entries inviting you to check the ‘like’ box, because they were highlighting an event or acknowledging the extent of volunteer service.  Newspapers ran articles on volunteering and management of volunteers, and occasional stories of volunteer experience.  There were also advertisements of appreciation, from a wide range of organisations, alongside invitations to volunteer.

There was little public proclamation from volunteers themselves. You had to be at one of those functions where awards were handed out and where the stories were told.

“It’s very nice to be appreciated,” said recipient Brenda Segar, 71, of Parklands.  That was on the front page of The Press, about Volunteer Canterbury’s award ceremony.  Another item reported on the 82 year old woman who was too busy volunteering to accept an award for her work.  “I don’t do it for reward”.  She likes doing things for others. “This is most enjoyable. I get home on a bit of a high afterwards.”

I wish we heard more from all those younger generations of volunteers who are filling the ranks in increasing numbers.  Volunteering is not just for the olds!

The story of matching organisation need with corporate interest and volunteer support was recounted at a Wellington function to celebrate the Nikau Foundation Corporate Challenge 2012. There could not have been a more literal example of building communities than the alliance between Habitat for Humanity, and the volunteer engineers from Beca.

In all the hoop-la and speechifying I could still hear the platitudes and clichés about volunteers and volunteering.  There were some new buzzwords too.  I wish we could find the slogans that offer genuine meanings of volunteering.

However, my media-scanning over the past week has gleaned some thoughtful and honest representations of volunteering and the relationship between volunteers and the organisations they serve.

Volunteers make the world go round, which is another way of saying Volunteering is Fun; it’s going and doing.  Volunteering is not the last word saving the world or being indispensible: it is being human, and being involved in community.

Volunteers demonstrate commitment and dedication and passion and skill, and they choose to show us how. (Plunket Society)

Volunteering and volunteer organisations are an important part of the fabric of New Zealand (Citizens Advice Bureau).  Yes!  A fabric is made up of warp and weft, and colour and design, length and breadth – all the multiple dimensions we can find in our communities.

Connection is the heart of volunteering   There is resonance here: Connection speaks of interaction, and a linking with other parts of societal structures – the political, economic and cultural.  This, from the Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector who concludes:

“As a short-cut for describing the outcomes achieved by the volunteering sector, we often use descriptions like ‘improving social cohesion’ and ‘strengthening communities’. What that really means at a personal level is that volunteers are creating relationships and enriching people’s lives, including their own, as they contribute their time and effort to making New Zealand a better place.”

There we have it then, a simple equation:

Volunteers + the organisation (good leadership and management) = Building Communities

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