I first dipped my toes into volunteering as a teenager, helping out at sports events. Then, when I was 15 years old I volunteered to help monitor the Baw Baw Frog on Mount Baw Baw and started an information stand at my school to raise awareness about environmental problems (it was short lived, students thought there were better things to do at lunch times).
I followed this up over the years with things like a day with the Australian Platypus Conservancy monitoring platypus, a week with the Mammal Department at Healesville Sanctuary, netball coaching, monitoring skink populations on Mount Baw Baw with La Trobe University, five weeks of wildlife monitoring in South Africa, managing the Poowong Produce Swap, developing and coordinating the Poowong Pickers Festival (for five years so far), raising money and implementing sustainability initiatives at my kids’ kindergarten and school, committee member of our basketball association, and of course I have volunteered a lot of time and resources around waste issues and education as part of my Gippsland Unwrapped activities.
In addition to being a volunteer, I held a paid role as a regional coordinator for a volunteer citizen science program for six years.
What’s the point of sharing all this? To demonstrate that I highly value volunteering as a way to make a difference in ourselves, our communities and the world.
Volunteering can empower people with the confidence, skills and knowledge to effect change in their world.
It helps create communities of informed, inspired and committed people engaged in confronting the challenges facing humanity.
Volunteering allows people from varied backgrounds to make important contributions, building trust and reciprocity among people, thereby promoting social inclusion and cohesion.
It can also contribute to personal transformation, whereby individuals change their beliefs, perspectives and day-to-day behaviours once they have developed a new awareness or understanding about a particular situation or issue.
For example, volunteers who redistribute supermarket food waste to those in need might start questioning the bigger picture, asking themselves, ‘Why is there food insecurity in the first place?’ and ‘Why is so much food going to landfill?’ In these moments, active citizens are born.
And besides all that, volunteering is a great way to meet like-minded people, form life-changing relationships, get work experience, feel good about contributing your skills and knowledge to something meaningful, and to develop a sense of belonging.
Every little bit you contribute can make the world a better place and it will inspire the people around you too!