National Volunteer Week is all about shining a light on those who give their time for others and it’s little wonder that the caring residents at Newling Gardens Retirement Village are amongst those who have been recognised in this year’s celebrations.
Resident Des Bowlay has been awarded the Duine Uasal (Gaelic for ‘honoured person’) by the Celtic Council of Australia for over 20 years of volunteer work with the Australian Celtic Festival in nearby Glen Innes.
“My parents were Scottish immigrants and because of my Celtic heritage, I took an interest in being a volunteer and helped to build the festival to what it is today,” Des says.
According to Des, the annual festival, which is always held in the first week of May, is a wonderful opportunity for the national Celtic community to gather together and celebrate their culture and traditions.
He says that he’s proud to have contributed over the years and hopes that his award will help to promote the festival and encourage more people to connect with their Celtic roots.
“It’s an honour to be recognised and it’s also a great opportunity to spread the word about the festival and the group,” he says.
For Richard and Margaret Mills, who were awarded the prestigious Alwyn Jones Community Service Award for a lifetime of service to the Armidale community, volunteering is a way to give back to their local community.
The couple has spent decades volunteering for Meals on Wheels, Rotary, the Ascent Group and various church, school and sporting associations and has also raised many thousands of dollars for Camp Quality, breast cancer research and Alzheimer’s research, just to name a few.
Ever-modest, Margaret says, “It’s just a way of life for us, nothing special, but we’re so blessed that we are still able to do what we love doing and do it together.”
“In smaller towns, it is very easy to see where there is a need and we love being able to help these people and add a little sunshine to their day.”
“I believe we’re all given a talent – mine happens to be cooking – and if we all used our talents as best we can, we’d be pretty good at helping each other, wouldn’t we?”
Margaret’s perspective perfectly illustrates why she, Richard, Des and so many other volunteers find fulfilment in putting their skills to good use and bring so much to our society through their generous and selfless contributions.
Brett Williamson, CEO of Volunteering Australia, says that National Volunteer Week is a time to say thank you to the six million Australian volunteers and celebrate that they are living healthier, happier and more meaningful lives by volunteering.
“Research tells us that volunteering makes a difference in people’s happiness.
“It’s proven that volunteers are happier, healthier and even sleep better than those who don’t volunteer.
“Just a few hours of volunteer work makes a difference in happiness and mood, so we are asking Australians to give as much time as they can,” Mr Williamson says.