Is there too much red tape involved in volunteering? Are people too time poor to help others? Is the younger generation unwilling to volunteer? From my experience, the answers are no, no and no!
With a fortnight of massive bushfires burning throughout the region, there will no doubt be a surge in enquires from people wanting to help out as volunteer bushfire fighters.
It apparently happens every time there is a significant event such as the fires we are witnessing throughout NSW and Queensland.
But the question needs to be asked: why does it take an emergency to prompt people into volunteering?
It is not just in the volunteer bushfire fighting ranks. I’ve witnessed the same phenomenon across the charities that I’ve been involved with over the years. It happens in cycles.
Some individuals are drawn to volunteerism because it has always been a part of their life. Often, retirees find they can dedicate their time and energy to help out with a community group or a charity.
People can feel unsure about the process of volunteering and this can block involvement. It often requires some homework, paperwork and signing up for a Working with Vulnerable People card, but as most volunteers will tell you, the effort is worth it.
Time and money can preclude many.
When you’re paying a mortgage and need to spend time with the kids, it’s difficult to find the time, let alone the energy to give to others. So for some, maybe just one or two voluntary events and activities a year with the family helping out as well, will do.
There are also plenty of opportunities for parents with young families to volunteer. Sporting clubs are always desperate for coaches, managers, committee members, officials, linespeople and canteen staff.
Sport thrives on the willingness of parents and community members to ensure children have a positive experience when it comes to sport.
But I’ve decided to write about volunteerism because a number of young people have approached me recently about volunteering. And not around sport, either. They’re keen to help the disadvantaged in Canberra. Some aren’t old enough to take on roles, but others have stepped up and are thriving. It’s hard to describe the fulfilment associated with helping others but these younger Canberrans really do understand it.
It is possibly one of the greatest levellers a person can engage in. Small things in life disappear into insignificance: wi-fi down, 20-year-old daughter still asleep at 11:00 am after coming home at a ridiculous hour of the morning, the kitchen’s untidy, where is that phone charger? Life little trials become trivial.
I’ve spoken at a number of Canberra schools and other functions this year about the benefits of volunteering. Following one talk at Daramalan College, Ronald McDonald House Canberra was deluged with requests from the students to cook meals for families using RMHC facilities.
RMHC contacted Daramalan College to find out the reason for the surge in interest. The interest was always there, it just needed a prod.
Kids are often viewed collectively as selfish and self-centred. We’ve all seen it: heads down looking into the glow of their phone, or that pout as they pose for another selfie. But this doesn’t mean that they don’t have time for others.
In my experience, all that is required is a bit of steering in a direction where they can see they can help.
Once there, the benefits are enormous.