By Ron Rowe
A community (a nation) is the sum of its parts. Every part of every sector contributes in small or large measure to advance or regress the whole. We all benefit from a society where people help each other. People feel better if they help with a cause they believe in; and communities are strengthened.
Currently, our nation is being wracked by an ‘Unspoken Epidemic’ of anxiety, uncertainty, and despair permeating many lives, created, or caused by the insecurity of the COVID pandemic. This insecurity is being exacerbated by the ongoing and real problems within the wider health sector with all its ramifications – lack of doctors, nurses, ICU beds… mental health. These are compounded by issues such as housing, poverty, child abuse, anti-social activities, economic uncertainty, immigration, and climate/environment.
The decades-old societal band-aid is not having the desired effect. This same tired old band-aid, whose stickiness has well worn off, is still being reused in an attempt to fix the ever-enlarging gaping wounds across all parts and sectors of our nation. Many people are anxious and unable to see a positive future.
A bright beacon
Yet it’s not all doom and gloom. Thankfully we do have a very bright beacon without which our communities would just not function well at all! We have hundreds, thousands of organisations with a million or more caring people selflessly giving their time, and resources to contribute to their community. Our nation of volunteers.
Almost all community organisations rely on volunteers and without their work, much vital work for the community would not happen. Volunteers are first responders in emergencies, working to conserve natural environments, and supporting vulnerable people in the community.
The very large and effective volunteer sector can provide leadership to their communities. We read and hear of many people taking the initiative and forging new and innovative ways in which to help their communities through the uncertainty.
It could be said that volunteering continues to resurface the stickiness of the community band-aid.
Volunteering does not happen by itself; people in community organisations must spend time and energy managing volunteers. This includes recruitment, training, and recognising their work. Volunteering New Zealand works with volunteer managers so they can do their jobs better.
Calling for a national volunteer strategy
Volunteering NZ is calling on people in government to recognise and promote volunteering by supporting a national volunteer strategy. It will guide the development of volunteering and provide a roadmap for the future. The community and voluntary sector, business and local government can all have input into the strategy and be responsible for the resulting actions.
With a community being the sum of its parts, by collaborating, organisations can do more, go further and become greater in their efforts through the sum of each.
Together, we can create a society that values volunteers as well as reaps the benefits of volunteering for wellbeing and social justice.
About Ron Rowe: Ron has over 50 years of active leadership in several community-based and volunteer organisations both in NZ and Internationally. Ron, a former Capability Development advisor, now retired, he has been a Lions club member since 1966. Actively supported by wife Ngaire, in 1976 -1981 established the first NZ/South Pacific (MD202) secretariat for Lions Clubs. Ron has recently brought together their voluntary activities in the book The Ever-Present Challenge – Empowering Volunteers and those who lead.