Tuesday, 23 May 2017

A $400m donation

has been given by one of Downunder's richest men, Andrew Forrest. 
Much was made of this in the media yesterday and yes, it is a very generous and welcome donation. The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition were at the announcement. So were various leaders whose work will benefit from the donation. (I particularly like that part of the donation designed to help coordinate cancer research around the world. If that works as intended it will be of immense value to health.)
But it wasn't that which interested me as much as what Mr Forrest had to say.
    "If you haven't got money, donate your time," he told people. He has donated time as well as money over many years so he knows the value of donating time.
It's easy to donate money if you have it. There's a "feel good" factor about it. It's quick. It's simple. We can forget about the issue or cause as soon as it is done and just bask in the after-glow of having done the right thing.
When I mentioned my concern about not presently being able to help in an organisation I belong to someone said to me, "You've done your share." No I haven't. Nobody has ever done their share as long as they are still able to do something. 
I know that "service" organisations like Rotary and Lions are finding it increasingly hard to operate as they once did. They simply don't have the members any more. People say they "don't have time" to be involved. Our local charity shop is staffed by people with an average age of over 80. I can't volunteer there on a regular basis but they know they can call me in to help when someone needs help with paperwork because they have limited literacy skills. It's not much but it is something. I can do a little shopping or a chemist run for elderly or ill neighbours. And, at some point, I am going to be able participate more fully in an organisation I am passionate about. In the meantime I can knit for that and another organisation - and the results will raise more money than I could give. 
The Senior Cat volunteered for years. One of those places was a women's shelter - where he did odd jobs like mending locks on doors and repairing furniture they had been given. The women were understandably wary at first but news soon passed from one vulnerable and distressed woman to another that here was a man they could trust - and that did as much good as repairing the lock on a door. It was time rather than money which was involved.
There is a greater expectation now that government will take on roles once taken on by volunteers, that our taxes will pay for services once done by volunteers. 
I don't see all this as a good thing. I have found that giving time gives me so much more. I meet people. I learn about people. I learn about myself. 
Someone smiled at me in the library yesterday. She looked vaguely familiar but I had no idea who she was. Then she said, "I saw you at the craft fair. You showed my daughter how to do that cast on." 
I had only a vague memory of that - there are too many people at a craft fair who get shown something. But, if I see this woman again, we will smile at each other and say hello because I happened to be at a craft fair giving up a little bit of time. And that adds a small link to my network of human contacts.
That has to be a good thing.  


Anonymous said...

I have found more friends when I am with volunteers than with any other group of people. Most of the time it is because I am part of the volunteer group, sometimes it is because I have supported a group as an outsider and got to know the insiders. People who are willing to help others in any way are usually nice people to be around.
I cannot imagine what sort of mess government will make of jobs volunteers do, and the few times I have been in a situation close to paid staff the relationship is not usually good. There are some volunteers I haven't liked, but the paid workers seem to go out of their way to be unliked by volunteers, the general public, and the people they are supposed to help.

Jodiebodie said...

Young people who would otherwise volunteer (I met my husband through volunteering) have their time and energy consumed by having a Centrelink obligation to apply for 20 jobs per week or do some other 'approved activity' (usually a class on "how to write a resume" 10 times over) or they are trying to maintain part time or full time work in order to fund their tertiary education. Every tertiary student I know has at least one part time job, some have more or a full time job and the study becomes part time.

Parents of school aged children, a segment of our community that often kept a lot of volunteer activities running, are also obliged to be either working or looking for work if they rely on welfare payments to supplement their household income. With rising rents, the 'working poor' are a reality as real wages decline.

It is no surprise that volunteers are thin on the ground.