by Catherine Delahunty
Today (December 5) is International Volunteer Day – the day we celebrate volunteering, the effort that what really makes the world go round.
Imagine if no-one helped out at Kohanga or Playcentre unless they were paid? Imagine no-one bringing meals to elderly people in their homes unless they were paid. Who would care for people with serious physical impairment around the clock? Who would pick up the phone for Rape Crisis and Women’s Refuge after hours? How would children get to sports and music and who would coach them? There would be no fundraising, very little advocacy for the vulnerable and the laundry would never get done!
There would be very little campaigning for the planet or social justice.
In every disaster – and we certainly have seen enough of those this year – volunteers are the bedrock of support. In every big community event volunteers play a crucial role.
Some cultures don’t even bother to distinguish between living and giving and the word “volunteer” is alien.
You never hear people say “I am volunteering at the marae”, or “I volunteered to teach my kids to catch fish”.
But with or without the name, acts of participation and sharing make life worthwhile in all communities. Unpaid but often well-rewarded by their experience, people live better lives when they are freely sharing and co-operating.
However, that doesn’t mean we should take volunteering for granted or accord this work a lower status than paid work.
Have a look today at what is being achieved around your community through unpaid work, and think about supporting good organisations that treat their volunteers with respect.
We need the whole Community Voluntary Sector to be resourced and respected. I will be working to support this sector both as a volunteer and while I’m paid. One key issue for the volunteer sector is the way the Charities Act 2005 is being applied. Many great groups who rely on volunteers (groups like Greenpeace and the National Council of Women) have been deregistered as charities since the law was changed in 2005, and that’s hurting the voluntary capacity of those groups and their donors.
The Greens highlighted this risk and opposed these changes in 2005, and now we are seeing the impact. We’re calling for the law to be reviewed and changed to ensure other voluntary groups are not unfairly deregistered.
As well as calling this law change, though I want take this opportunity on International Volunteer Day to say thanks to all the generous and hard working people out there doing it all for love! You are wonderful – thank you!