“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” — William Shakespeare
Volunteering is something I have done throughout my life for various reasons.
At the present time, the question I needed to answer was; “What was I going to do with myself now that we weren’t housesitting and travelling?”. One cynical spinoff to requiring more spare time was my overthinking and becoming negative about what was happening with the Squire and his cancer journey.
That part of our life wasn’t going to change.
What I could change was my thinking and to find something positive to challenge myself. One was joining a couple of Tramping Groups and learning a new skill of becoming a tour guide. Both of these activities, plus fun times spent with the Squire, family and friends would leave me less time to dwell on things that may or may not happen. More importantly, those activities would put me in a much healthier and confident frame of mind to support the Squire.
After much debate with myself, I realised I wanted to contribute to our community and learn more about its history. We do live in a historical area of Tauranga, and there lies a historic house and gardens [The Elms Foundation, more on this later]. This place has intrigued me for quite a while, and it would be interesting to spend the time to learn and to share that knowledge via stories with visitors.
With my love for research, and the fact that I have missed the constant source of history in the UK and Europe, and meeting like-minded people. The idea of volunteering at The Elms was beginning to sound an attractive proposition.
So what is volunteering?
The basics of volunteering are that it is generally an altruistic activity where you or a group provide your time and skills for no financial or social gain.
Most people volunteer their time and skills for the larger well-known charity organisations such as St Johns, Red Cross and the Samaritans, to name just a few. Then there are ones that are developed to preserve history within a community and country as a whole.
With others requiring more commitment in the form of overseas travel to volunteer your time and skill to organisations such as;
There can be a tricky side to volunteering and questions do arise whether it is still volunteering.
For example, WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) is a popular worldwide organisation where individuals undertake farm labour, in exchange for food and accommodation. Although individuals are not being financially remunerated, they are receiving gain or reward (accommodation and food). Does this now put those people who do this in the category to require a working visa?
Interestingly Immigration New Zealand (INZ) advice people not to volunteer unless the person has the appropriate work visa or are an NZ citizen. I do wonder how other countries see the broader aspect of volunteering?
What are the benefits to an individual and a community?
I see volunteers as the heart of a community, even social entrepreneurs and agents for change. They are vital if we are to maintain and develop sustainable community life some of those win-win benefits could be:
- Sharing your skills
- Learning new skills
- Social interaction
- Investing in your community and its people
- Uniting people from diverse backgrounds to work toward a common goal
- Give back to a cause you believe in
- Travel Responsibly
- Gain a new perspective on your community
- Good for your mental health
- Gaining a purpose to your day/life
- Defocussing from yourself