Let’s abolish volunteering’s retirement tag

NATIONAL volunteer week is over and many Riverlanders have been acknowledged for their generous contributions to society, but to be honest, I feel that the concept of volunteering is suffering from an identity problem.
Opening up conversation in the Riverland community last week revealed that volunteers are valuable, but they aren’t always easy to come by.
During recent weeks, two long-standing service groups have approached the Murray Pioneer to share their plea for “young blood”, as both face impending extinction.
In today’s edition, members of the Renmark District Hospital Ladies Auxiliary – that has served the community since 1933 – have appealed for younger volunteers to join the ageing group.
Similarly, the Renmark Neighbourhood Watch group shared a comparable cry for help amidst its recent 30th birthday celebration and pending withdrawal of its area co-ordinator.
Despite both groups promising a range of volunteering benefits and minimal commitment, I assume many youths would view the initiatives as stuffy and outdated (no offence).
I believe a re-branding route may be the answer to break down this particular barrier.
But first let’s look at what’s stopping us all from getting involved and sharing in the enjoyment of lending a hand?
It seems a ‘lack of time’ is the most commonly-cited reason for people not volunteering. However, from countless interviews with CFS members, Lions and Rotary affiliates, op shop and Meals on Wheels helpers and those within sporting clubs, I’ve found the people who do volunteer often lead the busiest lives.
Instead of focusing on the service a volunteer would be providing to others, perhaps a clearer perspective of what individual benefits would arise for the volunteer need to be made clearer.
For example, advertising a volunteer position like you would an occupation may spark more interest in the role. People could use social media or the local newspaper to invite recent graduates to boost their career prospects, gain skills, build on creativity and meet likeminded people via the new opportunity offered.
From my experience, the most efficient way to receive help is to simply ask the people you know for it.
Perhaps the members of Neighbourhood Watch could invite their grandchildren to attend their next meeting and to bring some friends along. Other groups could host open days or make use of their tech-savvy children to manage a social media page to reach potential new members.
The community should work together to rid the ‘retirement tag’ associated with volunteering and remind people that opportunities exist at locations they are already frequenting daily, including schools and sports clubs.
It often takes a nudge for individuals to get involved and for them to realise the required commitment is manageable. There’s also no harm in asking for help.
To those already volunteering, keep up the good work and thank you for using your civic responsibility for the greater good.

Sara Gilligan

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Sara Gilligan completed a Bachelor of Journalism and a Bachelor of Writing and Creative Communication at the University of South Australia in 2014. She has spent the past year working as a journalist at the Murray Pioneer's sister paper The River News in Waikerie. Sara grew up in the Adelaide Hills before moving to the Riverland to pursue her career. She enjoys reading, writing and exploring the outdoors.

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