As part of National Volunteer Week, individuals and groups across the country are this week sharing stories about the benefits of volunteering for those offering their time as well as those on the receiving end of this support. Established by Volunteering Australia in 1989, this annual period of reflection and giving thanks is the ideal time to consider your contribution to the local community and the type of volunteering opportunity that might appeal to you.
Countless volunteering opportunities exist within our region, from caring for injured wildlife to assembling OzHarvest hampers to ushering visitors at Floriade, and research has shown that the act of giving without expecting anything in return improves your mental wellbeing. Combine this benefit with the meaningful social connections you can form and the skills you can acquire through volunteering, and the question is not ‘should I volunteer’, it’s ‘when can I start’?
To find the right volunteering position for your skills, interests and lifestyle, begin by asking yourself these key questions:
What do you enjoy doing?
If you’re an adrenaline junkie, you’re more likely to prefer volunteer firefighting over assisting in historical restorations. If a slower pace is more your style, you might like to offer companionship to seniors or those with disabilities.
Would you prefer to work with adults, children, animals, or remotely?
If you decide you definitely don’t want to work with children or animals, your choices will be narrowed down considerably. If you decide you only want to work with animals, there might only be just a few choices close to home.
What causes are important to you?
Some volunteers are motivated by personal involvement or connections with those they are assisting. Perhaps you lament your own athletic shortcomings as a child and feel committed to helping a kids’ sports team be their best. Or you have seen the effects of a disease such as Parkinson’s on a loved one and can imagine nothing more important than assisting other sufferers.
How much time are you willing to commit?
You should only volunteer the amount of time that feels comfortable for you, because you don’t want to end up viewing volunteering as a chore down the track. Certain opportunities allow you to get the family or colleagues involved too, which is worth bearing in mind when trying to balance your various commitments.
You might consider sharing your valuable skills and time with the team at Canberra Centre’s Oxfam, where the sale of Fair Trade goods helps to break the cycle of poverty in disadvantaged communities. Alternatively you could follow the example of local hero Alan Jessop, who has been collecting donations for The Salvation Army more than 40 years at Canberra Centre, and find out about volunteer opportunities supporting social welfare programs in our city. With the annual Red Shield Appeal Doorknock taking place this weekend it is the perfect time to get involved or quiz a Salvos volunteer about their experiences, and to donate whatever you can.