By Andy McCombs

For Youth Week, 8-14 May, we’re publishing blogs by members of the Volunteering New Zealand Youth Working Group.

It’s a sunny Friday in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, you’ve spent all week locked away grinding out an assignment –
now what?

It can be a struggle to switch your brain out of study mode and well-deserved free time might not come around all too often. If you find yourself a bit lost in the constant scrolling and lounging but you’re not quite sure what to do with yourself, no worries! Everyone feels this way at some point. Volunteering is a great way to break out of a stagnant routine. And the best part? You can choose to lend a hand with something you actually enjoy doing while picking up some new skills and spending time with new people who appreciate the same things.

I could do a better job

It’s so easy to view current affairs through a cynical lens, gasping in despair every time a decision is made by a leader that seems absolutely counterproductive. When facing this, we can feel hopeless, or we can feel passionate that our ideas would achieve a better, more equitable outcome for the people we care about. Wondering how these industry/global/community leaders have used their power to say that *insert current topical issue* is the most crucial use of our resources and efforts can be a fruitless endeavour. Without a doubt, the majority of leaders have spent their time volunteering and contributing to their communities in some form, building connections and making their voices known. And this is the important part, we need to get involved now, in order to ensure our voices are heard as we face the challenges knocking at our door (or rising to our doorsteps).

Choose your own adventure

Enjoy spending time with animals? Sign up to your local shelter for a few hours a week. Prefer being in nature? I’m sure your nearby plant nursery would love to meet you! Personally, I’ve met some amazing people and visited some unique places around the motu by getting in touch with charitable groups or just saying ‘absolutely’ to a friend who’s asked for help fundraising, advocating, or another pair of hands with the odd jobs that make our communities shine.

Building connections and making a difference

Some of my favourite memories of volunteering are when I got to meet passionate people who thrived off helping lift others up through their mahi – whether it was holding a bucket on a street collecting coins and smiles, helping maintain a community garden, or running a toy drive to ensure more of our tamariki have something to play, learn, and develop with – there are thousands of groups who dedicate their free time to building up our rangatahi, so joining in just feels right. 

The Novel Coronavirus

Leaving the house can feel like the first hurdle in wanting to contribute to a great cause, but thankfully our collective response has given us a strong set of tools to prevent the spread of Covid. One of the most inspiring things to come out of this pandemic was seeing the community-driven actions of incredible volunteers who ran testing stations, assembled food packs, and kept us connected in these turbulent times.

But who has the time?

Between study, work, and social engagements, finding time in an already full-on schedule might seem impossible, but setting aside two hours of your week (or even fortnightly) to volunteer is an achievable goal and most groups have a set roster to ensure you won’t be caught off guard during a busy period of the year. 

Where to start

So next time you’re out for a walk, have a think about what you’d enjoy doing outside of study or work and get involved with a local group. There are so many great opportunities to do something that makes a difference, all it takes is a couple of clicks.