Give a Little, Change a Lot – National Volunteer Week

As the leading volunteer representative body in Australia, Volunteering Australia is a national organisation which aims to strengthen, promote and celebrate volunteer work in Australia. While much of their work involves conducting important research which informs advocacy and policy decisions, they also hold a yearly National Volunteer Week to thank volunteers who give their time to make an impact on other people’s lives. The theme this year is “Give a Little. Change a Lot.” 

The good news is, not only does volunteering benefit those around us, but research has shown that the act of giving without expecting anything in return improves our mental wellbeing, reducing the likelihood of depression thanks to the establishment of meaningful social connections. 

From caring for animals to handing out books in large public hospitals, delivering meals to the elderly, running the local sports canteen, providing support for self-help groups and assisting environmental organisations you’ll find countless ways to do good and feel good. 

But before you start, take the time to ask yourself a few key questions. 

What do you enjoy doing?
The answer to this question will certainly help you to find the right position. For example, if you’re an adrenaline junkie, you’re more likely to prefer volunteer firefighting over assisting in historical restorations. If a slower pace is more your style you might like to offer companionship to seniors or those with disabilities. 

Would you prefer to work with adults, children, animals, or remotely?

If you decide you definitely don’t want to work with children or animals, your choices will be narrowed down considerably. If you decide you only want to work with animals, there might only be just a few choices in your local area. 

What causes are important to you?
Some volunteers are motivated by personal involvement or connections with those they are assisting. Perhaps you still lament your childhood sporting shortcomings and feel committed to helping a local kids’ sports team be their best. Or for those who have seen the devastating effects of Parkinson’s Disease on a loved one, volunteering time to assist a Parkinson’s Disease sufferer can bring great meaning. 

How much time are you willing to commit?
The answer to this question varies from person to person, and often largely depends on working around existing work and family commitments. Certain opportunities might allow you to get the family involved – remember, it can be rewarding for them too. In any event, you only need to volunteer the amount of time that feels comfortable for you; you don’t want to view volunteering as a chore.  

Keen to find out more? You can either approach organisations directly or use online resources such as Volunteering Australia “GoVolunteer” initiative, SeekVolunteer’s search option, and the Red Cross volunteer search to find the type of volunteer work you’re looking for. 

If you know where you’d like to offer your services, here are some organisations you can approach directly. 
RSPCA: Roles include caring for sheltered animals, administrative tasks, special events and fundraising. 
Conservation Volunteers Australia: Roles include planting trees, conducting surveys, and collecting important native fauna. 
Meals on Wheels:operates nationally and depends almost solely on volunteers. Tasks vary but the most common is the delivery of meals to people who are physically unable to cook for themselves.
The Smith Family: welcomes volunteers 18 years and over to assist in helping young people in need.