Saturday 9 July 2022

Is volunteering out of fashion

or can some of those who would be willing to volunteer really unable to do it?

There is a short article in this morning's paper saying that the rising price of petrol is causing some people to withdraw from volunteering. They can no longer afford the petrol which once allowed them to collect and deliver items like food and clothing or attend activities for vulnerable children.

I am fortunate in that my volunteering can be done from home or I can pedal to the venues concerned. I make time for these things even though there are times when I would much prefer to be doing something else. It's important to do those things.

I was genuinely shocked when our GP suggested I "don't bother" because I had to get up very early one morning. Rather than accept I was helping someone on the other side of the world prepare for their volunteer role she seemed to think that sort of thing didn't matter. It does matter - to me, to the person I was helping and to the people who were going to be helped.

I also know that the woman who manages the local charity shop often has difficulty filling the roster. B.... knows that I would help if I could but her attitude is, "Cat, I call on you for other things. I know you do other things. There are people out there who could give up a few hours but don't." Yes, it would be very difficult for me to commit to a regular time each week. Even now my life can be chaotic when there is an emergency somewhere in the world. I am trying to cut back on that because we are going to need other people to do what I do. This has nothing to do with me not wanting to do the work. It's because I won't be around for ever. 

There are a lot of other people who currently volunteer and they won't be around forever either. The state's annual "Show" will have two new people as Convenors because the rules of the organisation state that other people doing this unpaid job must retire at 75. It is going to be up to those of us who volunteer with them to show them the ropes. It wasn't easy finding people who could commit the amount of time required either. 

Maybe I am wrong but I think we need to teach people what volunteering is actually about. Our society would not run nearly as well as it does without the people who do volunteer. The largest social welfare organisation outside government depends almost entirely on volunteers, so do several more. Once it used to be a matter of simply turning up and saying, "I'd like to help." Now there are police checks (which have to be paid for) and compulsory training in "occupational health and safety" and all sorts of  other hurdles. Many people "can't be bothered" with all this. Others simply do not have the time, especially in households where both parents work. 

But if we have to start to pay people to fill the roles that volunteers have been filling it is going to be very expensive and not just in financial terms. The thing with volunteering is not just the job itself but the people who are doing the same job and the companionship they have to offer.  Our society is going to be much poorer when we lose all that - and we almost certainly will without a little more education about volunteering.

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