Recognising the informal volunteering in our communities.

There are obviously 100s of people volunteering with a whole range of organisations across Otago who are in structured roles with a clear timeframe for their involvement – but is everyone who is a ‘volunteer’ necessarily linked to a specific organisation?

Not necessarily, there are certainly many individuals who are involved in regular, on-going volunteering each week, where they commit to supporting an organisation they are passionate about and they fulfil a specific role for them. And of course there are the one off events such as Warbirds over Wanaka or the Queenstown Winter Festival where volunteers sign up to assist and get their role descriptions in advance, t-shirts promoting the fact they are volunteers and often some great thank you parties afterwards. The thank you parties, free tickets or t shirts are certainly a fantastic and often enjoyable way to thank volunteers, but the majority of people who put their hands up to help do so simply because they believe in the organisation and they get a sense of satisfaction from helping out – a thank you in whatever form is vital to ensure they keep on coming back

However – there are also 100s of people who help others out each and every day and don’t consider themselves a volunteer or always get the recognistion that they are. This could be as simple as cooking an extra meal for the new mum next door, putting the recycling out for the elderley neighbour, walking the dog down the road, taking someone to the medical centre, tidying the garden of a friend in need or helping a friend move house.

All these little good deeds are what keep our awesome communities ticking and they happen all over the world, often without much thought from the person donating their time, skills or energy. But these people are still volunteers – volunteering to give their time to others with no expectation of payment, simply because they are generous and hopefully because underneath it all they get some satisfaction from knowing they have made a difference to someone else’s day.

I also think that it’s often these people who are more inclined to put their hands up to help in more formal roles. When I meet individuals keen to volunteer I always ask them what motivates them and often the response is as simple as ‘its in the blood’ or ‘it just feels like the right thing to do’. So if you are inclined to volunteer for one role, you are often open to the idea of helping in others.

It’s important not to forget the individuals who carry out informal volunteering and if you are one of them – give yourself a pat on the back today!