Reflections on the National Volunteer Week Reception

Volunteering a pillar of strength in our community, making an estimated annual contribution worth $290 billion dollars a year to our annual economic and social good. 

As a volunteer I get to witness the ways in which volunteering can make a world of difference and being able to commemorate 30 Years of National Volunteer Week at NSW Parliament House, affirmed my belief in the positive changes that can be brought about through the efforts of volunteers. 

Volunteers play a role in enriching the community and filling gaps in service delivery. The CEO of the Centre for Volunteering Gemma Rygate emphasised that, “Volunteers yield a 450% return for every dollar invested in social, cultural and economic terms. Most of us wish that our investments had that much value.” It reminded me that without volunteers, we would not be able to make a meaningful contribution to causes we care about or improve the wellbeing of the community. 

The impact of volunteerism goes beyond the monetary contribution towards the betterment of the community. At the reception I realised that I have embarked on a volunteer journey which began with asking “what can I do for you?” rather than thinking about myself. 

Volunteering at its core is about being of service to others, placing me in a position where I am cognizant towards the needs of others rather than seeking an outcome which reflects my own beliefs about how to solve a problem. Adopting this mindset has given me an immeasurable amount of joy and made me aware of the value of hearing someone else’s story.  

Upon Rygate making a ‘Cheers to the six million volunteers in Australia’, we raised a glass to being open to listening to others and celebrating the joy of giving back. It was followed by a wave of quiet chatter, as we awaited hearing the insights into volunteering that the Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services Gareth Ward had to offer. 

“Every week should be volunteer week” 

Volunteers deserve recognition for their efforts everyday. More than 2.1 million people volunteer in NSW, contributing 240 million hours of their time to causes or organisations they are passionate about.  Ward drew attention to the positive outcomes it brings about for the wellbeing of the community, “What we miss in remuneration, is made up for in the passion for the people they serve.” 

He delivered a talk from the heart, emphasising that ‘lives can be changed as a result of the gift of charity and the passion of people who volunteer.’ It affirmed that volunteering is a shared learning experience and a foundation for building relationships which are beneficial for the volunteer and the people they are helping. This made his assertion that ‘volunteering is emblematic of service above self’ resonate with me at a personal level. 

Being in a room full of people who were so interested in finding about other’s volunteer experiences of others made me realise that while we all volunteer for different reasons, it is important to find out their why. Ward spent his early life volunteering because he felt a sense of duty, “Volunteering was almost mandatory in my household.” The feeling of personal obligation which he associates with his earliest volunteer experiences, inspires him to encourage others to give back to the community. 

The experience of attending the National Volunteer Week Reception was insightful and memorable. A question I will endeavour to ask myself everyday is ‘how can I impact upon someone else’s life?’. Trying to do one good thing everyday, is a small action I can take to embrace the spirit of making a world of difference. 

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