Volunteers: Live, Laugh, Share

Thanks to our awesome volunteers, We appreciate the work you do. Message displayed at  Mary Potter Hospice, Kapiti

New Zealand National Volunteer Week: 18 – 24 June

Driving patients, making meals, shaking collection tins, home visiting, doing gardening and performing hundreds of other tasks: there are hundreds of thousands of volunteers helping our communities every week. There will be legions of you out there involved, and you are to be congratulated.

The ageing population may increase the dependent population and put pressure on health services, but it also increases the pool of volunteers in communities across the nation.

On Friday Kapiti Council provided a morning tea for conservation group volunteers and Mary Potter had a similar gathering today for its volunteers who care for the patients in a range of ways.

No doubt there will be similar meetings all round the country this week, acknowledging the huge unpaid work force which keeps society ticking over.

Dependent on volunteers

Kai for Kids began when Shari-ana Clifford shockingly confronted with the fact that children at local primary schools had little or no lunch and were malnourished and hungry. The Kai for Kids website

Shari-ana founded the organisation in Porirua, and over a weekend they put together 1200 school lunches. Their slogan is FULL TUMMIES  – FULL POTENTIAL. The group is meeting a real need and there are equivalent organisations in many New Zealand communities.

Charities which struggle to fund their operations are very dependent on the goodwill, time and effort of volunteers.

There are also a number of essential services which have some salaried personnel, but can’t operate the full range of operations without the help of unpaid people.

Take for example:

  • fire brigades
  • ambulances
  • hospices
  • life saving patrols.

There are also thousands of people who volunteer in schools and retirement villages; coach sports teams; run cultural groups: serve on committees; take part in environment groups; deliver meals  – the list is a long one.

Messages from and for the authorities

Volunteering is about sharing – your time, your energy and your resources. This week is about celebrating that. I’d encourage everyone to look up the opportunities and events in their area and to give volunteering a go, Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, Mr Ngaro says.

Volunteer New Zealand says there are about 1.2 million volunteers in New Zealand who donate about 157 million hours annually.

It’s good that the Minister acknowledges the roles played by people who give freely of their time and skills. No-one would suggest that all the work done by volunteers should be paid employment.

However both central and local government must ensure that groups and charities which are providing essential services, do get reasonable support and that funding levels maintain pace with inflation.

Government should never make the assumption that they can reduce their social obligations and increase the dependence of essential services on the goodwill of community volunteers.