National Volunteer Week celebrates the ‘powerful impact’ of those trading their time for change

May 17, 2023
Volunteers are being celebrated for their vital contribution. Source: Getty Images.

The important role volunteers play in making positive change is being recognised as part of National Volunteer Week (May 15 to 21), Australia’s largest annual celebration of volunteering.

Volunteers play a vital role in the fabric of Australian society, with an impressive estimate of over five million individuals engaging in organised volunteering activities each year. Additionally, an estimated 6.5 million people contribute informally to their communities by providing volunteer support.

A recent report published by Volunteering Australia has shed some light on the motivations and diverse forms of volunteerism, finding that 72 per cent of volunteers are primarily motivated by personal satisfaction and the desire to make a meaningful impact.

Their strong drive to help others and contribute to the betterment of their communities is noteworthy, with 61 per cent of volunteers citing this as a key factor driving their involvement.

While motivations for getting involved can vary from person to person, for CEO of Volunteering Australia, Mark Pearce it was a “love for animals” that led him to get involved in the Animals Australia board as a volunteer.

“Additionally, I believe that everyone has a right to education that is tailored to their needs, so I volunteered my time launching The Sycamore School,” he said.

After being an outpatient at St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital for a number of years, Simon Spencer was also motivated to get involved and help out.

He now volunteers two days a week wearing funky waistcoats to match the day of the week (e.g Fish Friday) and has made over 3,000 fidgets for the children on his 3D printer at home and spoke of what volunteering has brought to his life.

“People have their lives turned upside down in such a short time when they come into hospital, they can be quite stressed and of course, they do not know where they are going and what is happening,” Spencer explained.

“So if you can alleviate some of the stress straight away it helps them out quite a bit of course.

“Later on as you maintain that contact, you can keep them occupied as they get ready for surgery and perhaps attend to some of their needs.

“In the longer term, as you get to know them and with the little one in particular you do help them and brighten up their day with a number of activities and because of that you often get some pretty intensive feedback.

“I had a little one the other day come running across the foyer after being discharged and wrapped her little arms around my legs, looked up, and said ‘thanks very much for looking after me Simon’ so you do get some positive feedback directly.”

Spencer enthusiastically encouraged individuals with an interest in volunteering to take the leap, emphasising the “sense of purpose” that comes with the act of dedicating one’s time to making a meaningful impact as all the encouragement one needs.

“Volunteering has so many positive rewards to it so it doesn’t really matter what age you are, the younger ones bring that energy and positivity, and as an older person with more time, perhaps you’re retired, it really does bring a sense of purpose to your life,” he explained.

“You get some really good positive feedback from it, you enjoy life more and you really have a positive impact on people’s lives.

“You do come away on days and you think, ‘I’ve had a really good day today, I’ve really helped someone out’ and just being able to be there and help people out is really positive. But not only that, in the long term you find your life just becomes happier, you have a purpose and you become happier.

“Just being able to help people in their time of need or when they are stressed, just being to help them is really rewarding.”

Those interested in volunteering opportunities around Australia can visit the GoVolunteer website for more information.

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