Life at No.22, New Zealand

The Value of Volunteering

“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;

Humanity for Habitat 

Volunteering Abroad

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
Have you ever thought of volunteering?  If so, where have you chosen?
The Value of Volunteering

 

43 thoughts on “The Value of Volunteering”

  1. Volunteering is an awesome way to contribute to the community, and learn new skills. Also make new friends too. I think it is great for the unemployed or for folks with time of their hands, like retired couples. Everyone has so many skills they can give to a charitable organization. I have done a fair bit of volunteering although I am careful that an organization does not exploit volunteers instead of giving a paid worker a job. Some countries believe that if there is a task to be done, a paid worker should be employed to do it. I think there is a place for volunteering as long as it is not exploited. I know I got so much out of it, personally.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Totally agree, and there is certainly a fine line between exploiting volunteers and not employing people. I try not to focus on that aspect and just look at the positive with myself and the organisation being in a win-win situation.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I would love to volunteer, Suz, especially when (if ever) I’ll be retired. Right now, there is truly no time, as we still need to make money to survive and choose to live on the road with its own challenges. That being said, we do plan to volunteer at an animal sanctuary in Utah later in the spring. It has been on our mental agenda for a while, so it will happen. The only question will be: are we able to leave again without a new furry family member?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Now that would be an interesting job collating the information. When I was much younger I taught cooking classes with people who had physical disabilities as I wanted to work in that field where I eventually got a job months later.
      I do volunteering now for more interaction with my community and I’m enjoying it. Rachael, have fun with the campaign.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Volunteering as a tour guide sounds like a good fit for you, Suzanne. I was looking into a volunteer role as a “walk leader’ in my city. I’m traveling a lot this year so I’m thinking about how I can fit the ‘walk leader’ role in.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lets hope that I am a good fit, it just requires being oneself and learning quite a bit of knowledge. Which is a gradual thing! One good thing about volunteering is that you can have time off when notice is given and set your own days and times.

      You would be wonderful as a walk leader around your city, that is a fabulous service for visitors who want to chat with a local to gain information. Most charge that I have come across, or you need to buy them lunch.

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  4. Most of my volunteer commitments have been serving on non-profit boards and lately, political activism. I’ve also volunteered to drive cancer patients to appointments and would that more, but there doesn’t seem to be much demand. Id like to find some other opportunities, but we seem to have a surplus of volunteers in our community!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I volunteered my natural medicine skills with a charity called Healing Hands Network, travelling to Sarajevo in 2000. I fund raised for my trip and for another the following year, which sadly did not happen as I had a health blip. The Bosnian people were a joy and I felt very humbled by their kindness.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post and for me, opens up many cans of worms!

    I’ve volunteered over the years but especially recently in Thailand for 5 months for the same organisation over 2 stints. The second time we had to get a visa, which I don’t believe should be required and is just another way of collecting money as of course, it’s not free.

    As my partner is a fully qualified EOD 2 Tech, we door knocked throughout SE Asia – probably over 40 companies if not more – as he wanted to help clear land mines. Sadly, this work is all sewn up by governments, NGOs, and INGOs, so we weren’t able to find anyone that would take him on. In Laos, we were even told to return to Australia and apply to volunteer through our government or an agency.
    We found a company that took us on without having to pay them and my partner even got to deliver MRE (Mine Risk Education) to Burmese migrants returning to their country. Burma/Thailand borders are still heavily mined and the government is not interested in clearing these now or in the future, but still people are killed or maimed daily.

    There’s a lot of money to be made in volunteering and for me, this goes against the grain.
    Why would I pay someone in my country to volunteer in another country? How much of that money goes to the country in which I’m volunteering? We can have a very long discussion over this…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We will have that long discussion one day as I agree with you!! I know of other people who are trying to rid the world of unexploded bombs. Wars, the only people who gain from them are the makers of the artillery.

      It’s like all organisations you just have to do your research on them before volunteering your time and money. I have a family contact I could ask for advice if I did want to overseas volunteering. Not that is on my current list of things to do. I mentioned it as an option for folk and further discussion 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I hope so, over a few vinos 😉

        Not sure if you’ve heard of Giles Duley? Check him out, he’s such an inspiring person. After losing 3 limbs to a landmine in Afghanistan, he’s become an advocate for the human cost of war http://legacyofwar.com/

        Yes, we had friends from the UK that travelled for 12 months through Sth America and had all they’re volunteering work paid and booked for in the UK. Everything from orphanages to conservation on the Galapagos – the latter was disappointing for them as it was a waste of their time. I just believe that if someone is willing to put themselves up at all costs to them plus give their time freely for a cause, an agent shouldn’t take a cut, but I’m sure many would disagree with me.

        It’s a great topic for discussion. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Totally agree about paying others to head overseas to volunteer. Though having said that, there maybe issues that need sorting out with the average person unable to do it themselves. More discussion needed and fact gathering.

          Thanks for the link Nilla I will check it out.

          Yes, to the vino and chat 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  7. I see you managed to change your Twitter handle ☺

    A friend of mine who, like all the best people, will be 60 this year, has decided to celebrate by volunteering for 60 hours during the year before her birthday. She’s going about it very seriously and is encouraging others to join in. She’s aso blogging about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve volunteered a few times along the way, Suzanne. I was a counsellor for Cruise (helping the bereaved) and have done visits to the aged (till I became one myself 🙂 ). Tour guiding sounds right up my street and an interesting organisation to commit to. You’ll enjoy it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You made me laugh Jo when you said you visited the aged until you became one 🙂 Time seems to fly by!!
      Yes, I am sure I will love showing people around The Elms. It is an ongoing learning process.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Great post, Suzanne. For the past 2.5 years, Richard and I have both volunteered together at our local animal shelter. Almost all of the benefits that you listed above have applied to our experience. In addition, as the folks at the animal shelter are genuinely grateful for all of the help that they can get, they are very generous and understanding when we have extended travel plans and cannot volunteer for blocks of time. This flexibility on their part makes volunteering with them a true win-win all around!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Like you I have found the people at The Elms Foundation really fab and friendly with a very positive environment to be around.

      Many communities could not run as efficiently without volunteers. I know that is a sweeping statement though I do believe it is true.

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  10. I haven’t volunteered yet in my retirement, but I think it’s just a matter of time. Because we want to be able to travel at the drop of a hat, I don’t want to commit to anything that could get in the way of that. When we cut down on – or stop – traveling, I have several organizations in mind.

    Unrelated question: is it just my screen or are your comment replies no longer connected visually with the comment? On your former blog (and most others) it’s obvious who you are responding to. It looks like you may be using the new blogging platform and, before I make the plunge, I want to make sure this option won’t go away.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ummm, I thought I was still using the old platform. Yes I know what you mean about the comments. I will have to look into it Janis.
      One good thing about volunteering as I don’t have to commit to doing too much and I can opt out if “life” gets in the way. Many of the volunteers are travellers and do take weeks off at a time. As a newbie I will do more hours at first so I can retain all the information.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Thanks, Janis for pointing out the comments, all fixed now. I had noticed it previously and put it on my to-do list, and you know what happens to those lists 🙂 By the way, I look forward to hearing more about your future travels as well as your voluntary work. I thought about the SPCA as I mentioned to Sam, I would want to take them all home as would most people though I am sure I would harden up as time went by!

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  11. I went to a seminar about happiness recently and one of the main things they mentioned was being kind, and doing things like volunteering makes the volunteer happier than people who don’t volunteer.

    I guess whenever I have done volunteering it has made me happy…although it can also be exhausting!

    Still, I think you also need to be careful not to take the role of someone that could be paid for that work. It is a bit dodgy if a wealthy person is volunteering in a developing country in a role that could just as easily be a paid role for a local/ help the local economy. Or if schools lay off teaching assistants to save money, and then ask parents to volunteer their time to help children with reading etc. Those are the cases when volunteering can be a bit of a grey area in terms of the “good” it does…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I know what you mean Josy, about taking jobs. Though when it is an organisation based on no profit then there is no chance of taking someone’s job.
      I could go on about the Educational system and the lack of money put aside for teacher aides. If it wasn’t for people doing voluntary work in schools for example, they would certainly be in strife. Not too mention all the children who don’t have the opportunity to learn from the older members of society. I think it is a win-win situation.
      Regarding going overseas to do volunteer work, using most of the ones I know are done to share skills to those that are in need. E.g. after a nature disaster.

      It is all about balance and not over stretching oneself. The hours you put in have to be a fun activity and a productive one for the organisation.
      In a perfect world everyone would get paid. Though some of us chose to do volunteer work so we don’t take a job off someone more in need.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I’ve done lots of volunteer work in the past – for the Samaritans, Cyrenians, and the Salvation Army. I’ll do it again like a shot when I stay in one place long enough. I think it’s really rewarding for all involved. Good luck with yours.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I haven’t volunteered, but I have been thinking about it more recently. If I did, (I’d like to think I will one day), it would be for National Trust or for animal charities. Yes I can understand the ‘tricky side’ of volunteering which you talk of and I certainly wouldn’t know the answer to that one. I believe volunteering would give such self satisfaction. I’m looking forward to hearing about The Elms Foundation 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sam, I would volunteer for the National Trust if I was living in the UK. I couldn’t work at the SPCA [rescued animals] as I would want to bring them all home 🙂 Too heart breaking though it is one organisation that needs more people and less animals in its care. Maybe more education of the adoption of animals and the dedication needed to own a pet. Have a good night 🙂

      Like

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