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    VOLUNTEERS ARE THE BACKBONE AND HEART OF OUR SOCIETY

    Date:

    Just in case you needed a reason to enrich you and your community through the privilege and gift of volunteering, The Westsider’s founder Kelly Kayne reminds us why it’s so important.

    Volunteer Week 2022 – Better Together 

    May sixteenth to the twenty-second is National Volunteer Week and this year’s theme is ‘Better Together’. This special week is about celebrating and recognising the vital work of volunteers, a collective ‘thank you’ to their tireless efforts. It’s also a great time to look into volunteering if it’s been on your radar.

    Did you know that Australia has almost six million registered volunteers and that volunteering contributes around $43 billion annually to the Victorian economy alone?

    Think about it – every local market, school fete, football and netball match, art exhibition, community event, concert, fundraiser, environmental group, animal rescue, sports club, community paper and emergency service is reliant on people like you donating their time. Then factor in the humanitarian organisations like food banks, refugee and asylum seeking services, homelessness assistance, drug and alcohol support and the many family services. 

    Now imagine if we lost even two-thirds of that people-power. That’s how many people cut back their volunteering during the pandemic and only one-fifth have returned. 

    Australia has a long history of volunteering. 

    Historically, Australians like giving time for others and have one of the highest rates of volunteering in the world. We are givers. Organised service groups like the Country Women’s Association, Lions, Scouts, Girl Guides and Rotary had huge memberships because they, along with cultural clubs, hobby groups, unions and religious groups, were the primary organisers of local social gatherings. With no internet, volunteering was nearby and in-person. It’s this organised neighbourhood activity that is the foundation of strong, resilient communities. 

    How to get started.
    Do your research – talk to other volunteers. What do they love about it? What engages them? What drives them? Can you commit a little time or a lot? There are all sorts of volunteer opportunities that will suit your passions and situation.

    The Westsider and Volunteering
    Volunteers are what keep The Westsider vibrant and alive! Without your input – the writers, photographers, social media managers and content creators, proof-readers, graphic designers, committee members and strategic support team, we would cease to be. 


    5 reasons you should volunteer in 2022 

    This research is drawn from Joanne Fritz and Stephen Post in Reconnected. 

    1. Volunteering is good for your health. 

    Did you know that volunteering is so good for your health that researchers found it should be prescribed by doctors?  Stephen G. Post, Ph.D. researched the ‘benefits of giving and compassionate care’, and how it improves patient outcomes. He found that volunteering is linked to feeling healthier, being less stressed, improving sleep quality, improving resilience and having a higher sense of self worth and belonging. 

    2. Volunteering builds community

    Connected communities are resilient, happy and productive. Research shows that being a member of a club, organised activity or having a sense of belonging to your neighbourhood increases the likelihood that you feel happy and satisfied with your life. People are made for connection and giving, it’s the essence of our being. Three fifths of Australians have said they would like to know their neighbours better, volunteering locally is a great way to start. 

    3. Volunteering reduces loneliness

    Australians have half the social connections today compared with thirty years ago, we are in an epidemic of loneliness, despite being more ‘connected’ than ever before. Volunteering connects you to a community with a higher purpose and it’s proven to reduce loneliness. Volunteers specific to an area are shown to build better social cohesion and meaningful connections.  It’s these relationships that then become a support network during times of stress which eases feelings of isolation.

    4. Volunteering creates new bonds and friendships

    Volunteering brings groups of people together who may not have connected otherwise. Why is this important? Because it opens your mind and your heart. You will spend time with people outside your usual circle and hear stories or have conversations that will expand your thinking and build empathy.  There is no purpose or agenda beyond helping someone else.

    5. Volunteering helps develop emotional stability

    A study in the Journal of Happiness Studies surveyed people every two years from 1996-2014 and found that people who volunteered more frequently were more happy overall and had better mental health. You can pick up new skills, share existing ones and interact with people in a way that builds your self-esteem, taking the focus off yourself. 

     

    Your chance to help
    If you would like to enquire about volunteering with The Westsider, head to our website or email us volunteers@thewestsider.com.au for more information. 

    Resources:
    https://www.volunteeringvictoria.org.au/

    https://govolunteer.com.au/volunteering/in-victoria-vic

    References:
    ‘Reconnected, A Community Builder’s Handbook’ by Andrew Leigh and Nick Terrell

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    Our content is a labour of love, crafted by dedicated volunteers who are passionate about the west. We encourage submissions from our community, particularly stories about your own experiences, family history, local issues, your suburb, community events, local history, human interest stories, food, the arts, and environmental matters. Below are articles created by community contributors. You can find their names in the bylines.

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