Volunteering is an essential expression of humanity
This edition, I wanted to celebrate a group of people that are often loath to be celebrated, and because of that I’m going to single them out for what they are; the greatest expression of humanity there is.
If you cringed at that (I’ll admit, somewhat hyperbolic) statement, perhaps you too are a volunteer. In fact, if you scratch the surface of nearly every facet of life in our society, you’ll find that it is empowered in some way or another by a complexity of volunteers. (N.b. I’ve decided that the collective noun for volunteers should be ‘complexity’ rather than ’corps’ because they are and do incredibly diverse and different things).
At this point I should admit a few things that may, or may not help give you context to my unabashed enthusiasm about volunteering.
Seven or so years ago I got involved with a little organisation that knew about the empowering nature of community, and wanted to encourage it in the West of Melbourne. Like many passionate, creative and good-willed organisations, they knew that the spirit of community, with all its diversity and difference, could create something bigger than the sum of its parts. They knew that our diversity is our strength, and that together we move from a place of individualistic surviving, to that of collective thriving.
I volunteered for them and, in lots of different ways, I started to understand that to be able to celebrate and contribute to community is a privilege in and of itself.
The organisation volunteered for seven years ago was The Westsider and, in that time, I’ve actually come to make volunteering my life. I was recently appointed Managing Editor of the paper (a paid role, although a large proportion of my commitment is volunteered) and my ‘other job’ is as Community Engagement Coordinator for Volunteering Victoria. I am officially an oxymoron. I am a ‘professional volunteer’.
From Volunteer to Volunteering professional, to Editor and Volunteer Manager at The Westsider, I feel qualified to get paid to talk about volunteering, but I’ve also left it, in this edition, to our wonderful volunteers. The people who really do make this paper what it is; an opportunity to engage, encourage, enhance and empower our community in all its strength of diversity.
Volunteering takes so many forms, meanings and expressions; it’s putting your neighbours bins out and sitting on the board of a multi-million dollar not-for-profit. It’s the driving force of our art, sport, spirituality, charity and culture. It creates connectedness and a sense of purpose beyond the money-for-time transactional nature of work, and engages people with what really matters to them.
As National Volunteer Week is celebrated this month it’s an opportunity to give attention to the selfless, not necessarily because they want or need the kudos, but because we do need to acknowledge that their contribution underpins what’s good about our community. By doing so, we support and encourage more of the goodness and humanity, and, in a society enduring adversity and constant change, the guiding light of humanity is more important than ever.