This week is National Volunteer Week and throughout the country organisations are shining a light on hardworking and passionate people who help hold a lot of things together.
In Central Otago there are so many things we can take for granted that would fall over if it wasn’t for amazing volunteers who give their time and their talent to help hold things together — often with limited resources and a can-do spirit.
Volunteers are those who support our water catchment groups and environmental causes.
They coach our children’s sports teams, often involving driving long distances and very cold starts on the sidelines.
They provide community and connection: the MenzShed, Senior Citizens and community events — even the country’s longest-running festival, the Alexandra Blossom Festival, is backed by volunteers.
Many of our social supports in Central Otago are supported by volunteers: providing meals on wheels; visiting the elderly; providing baking and support to families in need; supporting recognised seasonal employer (RSE) workers and our migrant communities; and serving in our churches, playgroups and toy libraries.
Even our emergency services: fire, ambulance, coastguard and search and rescue — the people we call when the wheels really do fall off — rely heavily, and in some cases solely, on volunteers.
What would we do without them? Quite frankly, we’d be stuffed.
I have been around a while and there are two common themes I hear when it comes to volunteers.
Firstly, from the volunteers, I hear they do it because they love it — they have found something that gives them purpose and meaning, that they are passionate about and they throw themselves all in.
Why else would someone choose to stand on the side of a mountain in the pouring rain marshalling a sports event, or give up their New Year’s break to catch vomit from drunken teenagers? (Yep, that’s what the Red Frogs volunteers do for fun — they’re crazy).
The second thing I hear is there is always a need for more.
For more people to put their hands up and say, ‘yes, I’d love to get involved; yes, I’d love to offer my skills, or time’.
It can be easy for us to get caught up in the busyness of life — the routine of eat, sleep, work, repeat — and can be hard to believe we have anything to offer, or the capacity to do so.
But can I encourage you to take a step back from that narrative for just a moment, to pause and consider where it is that you may have space to step up and lend a hand?
You may be surprised to find you have capacity to give a little of your time, or talent.
You may be just what the local Scouts, theatre group, foodbank or Buddy programme are looking for.
Why not give volunteering a go? You may find it opens you up to a whole new passion, and our community will be better for it.