Volunteering can be a highly rewarding experience with numerous benefits, both for those who volunteer and for the communities or organisations they serve. National Volunteer Week, May 15-21 is an opportunity to discover how volunteering can benefit you and the community you live in. Read on to discover what the value and benefits of volunteering are and meet just a few of the many resident volunteers we have in our villages and find out what volunteering means to them.
The benefits of being a volunteer
Social connections: Volunteering offers opportunities to connect with others and build meaningful relationships. It allows you to meet people from diverse backgrounds, share common interests and form friendships.
Community impact: Volunteering can make a positive impact on communities and organisations in need. It provides people with a chance to give back to their communities, contribute to social causes and make a meaningful difference in the lives of others.
Improved well-being: Volunteering has been linked to improved mental, emotional and physical well-being. Engaging in volunteer activities can help reduce stress, combat feelings of loneliness or isolation and improve overall life satisfaction.
Personal satisfaction: Volunteering can provide a sense of personal satisfaction and fulfilment. Knowing that you have made a positive impact on others and contributed to a greater cause can be deeply rewarding and gratifying.
Fun and enjoyment: Volunteering can be a fun and enjoyable experience. It allows people to engage in activities they are passionate about, meet like-minded people and enjoy a sense of camaraderie and community.
Meet some of our village volunteers
Ray lives in Newling Gardens Retirement Village and says that “getting in and helping” is something that he’s always done and was instilled in him from a young age. Ray is very active within village as the Chairman of the Residents Committee, which he’s been involved in for a number of years.
Outside of the village, Ray is active in Rotary where he is the incoming President. “We’ve had a lot of projects happening, some of them very significant. Including with the Ezidi community that were refugees from northern Iraq – we run projects with them as well as the Women’s Shelter and Back Track organisation, which is a youth recovery and training program of considerable note. So I’m involved in those sorts of projects,” says Ray. He and his wife Margie also deliver for Meals on Wheels.
“There are other ad hoc things I get involved in, for instance when the Lismore floods happened last year, we decided we’d do some fundraising in the village which very quickly turned into fundraising in the whole town. Over three-and-a-half days, we filled up two very big furniture vans and two very big trailers with stuff to send up to Lismore and a fair bit of cash as well,” says Ray. “People came from everywhere to donate. That was a huge success.”
When asked what he gets personally from volunteering, Ray says: “There’s a sense of satisfaction that you’ve helped a bit, a sense of well-being. I think this applies to a whole lot of people who quietly volunteer, there’s a sense of gratitude that you’re fit and able enough to do things that need to be done for those who aren’t able.”
For Fay at Boambee Gardens Retirement Village, a love of books drew her to the village library where she was the librarian for five years. Here she was able to not just be around books, but help share that love with others.
“I love people, talking to people and being able to help them. Especially in the library, I became quite aware of what type of books that particular residents liked, so when books came in I was able to drop a hint to someone,” says Fay. “It’s wonderful meeting new people and learning about them. Being able to swap ideas.”
Currently, Fay volunteers at the Sawtell Historical Society once a week, where she helps document the local history and connect people with the past.
“At the Historical Society, I get to meet a range of different people. It keeps your brain active and thinking. I quite enjoy it.
“I’ve found that volunteering often leads me to new opportunities related to the things I’m interested in. It also gives you something else to think about other than what’s happening in the world today,” says Fay. “Most of all there’s often a lot of good chatter and laughs!”
When Newling Gardens resident, Carole, first retired she took time to enjoy life and be at home with her husband. “I was reluctant to take time away from home for any period of time, so declined a lot of requests,” Carole explains. “Then when my husband died, I needed to be busy so I ended up accepting lots of different requests.
Coming from a business background, Carole is able to use her experience on a few boards including the New England Support Service and Meals on Wheels.
“The New England Family Support Service focuses on family and young children before problems start. I’m not involved in the operations of it, other than on the board where I’m treasurer. Meals on Wheels is a similar situation, I’ve been a driver for a good number of years, but I agreed to become treasurer on the management board about a year ago. So these two roles are formal and have a legal responsibility,” Carole explains. “I’m also on the management board of the University of the Third Age, which is becoming active again after COVID.
“With my board roles, it keeps my business skills intact and it keeps me involved with a diverse network of people with similar beliefs,” says Carole. “These roles broaden the range of people I meet and have friendships with, which is really nice.”
“When you retire you lose all the trappings, it’s like taking off your uniform, you no longer have your office with your nice chair and your mobile and your flash laptop, which are all the things you have with a senior position,” Carole explains. “Suddenly you’re all on a level playing field and it’s amazing to see the knowledge and range skills that the retired community have, it’s really quite impressive.”
Boambee Gardens resident, Margaret, has been a Pink Lady at the local Base Hospital for an impressive 21 years.
“I do one shift a week. The reason I do it is it’s a community service and I enjoy the company of the younger people that I meet, as well as the nurses and doctors who I get to know,” says Margaret. “The best part of it is, because I’m dealing with the finances of the cash register, it keeps my brain turning over.”
Margaret is also a member of the Country Women’s Association, where she handles the bookings for their hall, which is hired out to the public.
Margaret enjoys volunteering as she loves meeting and talking to different people than she otherwise would in the village. This doesn’t stop her being active in the village where she also runs the indoor bowls and does a weekly shift on the village bar.
“I have something on most every day and it keeps me busy and active,” says Margaret. “I’m not a sporting person, so community work has always been my thing.”
A common theme with all volunteers is they could always use more help, as Margaret explains: “Since COVID, we’ve lost a lot of volunteers at the hospital. People have lost interest or found new ways to spend to their time, it would be lovely to have a few more people offer to do a couple of hours.”
Becoming a volunteer
There are so many ways – big and small – to volunteer in our community. Ros, is a resident at Wood Glen Retirement Village, who spent many decades volunteering for Lifeline doing Crisis Support. She is currently a carer for her husband and now volunteers on several of the village interest groups plus the Residents Committee. She says it’s just about finding what suits your skill set.
“It’s really about finding your niche and what interests you, that’s so important,” says Ros. “It’s also really important to set boundaries for yourself about what you will take on, so you don’t wear yourself out.”