Written by Nathalie Harrington
The fact that nearly half the year has already flown by is rather unsettling but, on the bright side, it means that National Volunteer Week is only just around the corner (21-27 June, to be precise). The week is about celebrating volunteers and, in a city like Wellington where people volunteer in droves, there is a lot to celebrate!While volunteering is seen as a normal and valuable part of life for many, there remain those who shy away from the prospect. Having interviewed volunteer seekers at Volunteer Wellington* for nearly four years, I’ve come across a fair few wildly incorrect assumptions about what it means to be a volunteer and about how the community sector operates. Most importantly, I often see people wanting to volunteer but doubting their own ability to make a meaningful contribution to their community.With that in mind, NVW presents a chance to tackle some persistent misperceptions, especially those about “what it takes” to be a volunteer. Appropriately, this year’s NVW tagline is “There is a place for you to volunteer”.



No matter your background/ethnicity/language/education/experience/availability.

There is a place out there that needs you; a place where you can contribute.

It’s a bold assertion but one that I agree with entirely. While I don’t know the exact number of community organisations operating in the Wellington Region, I do know that over 400 have registered as members with Volunteer Wellington. Each and every one of these needs volunteers to add to their ability to make a difference in the community. As a result, the range of potential volunteer roles is limitless (not to diminish their importance but, contrary to common assumptions, volunteering can involve a lot more than street collections and cleaning up the beach!).

Understanding this potential lets volunteer seekers see more clearly how they can fit into the picture. There will always be a place where a person’s skills or personality can (and will) make a big difference. Part of finding that place might be, I’d suggest, realising the value inherent in all the forms volunteering can take. Help with data entry and mail-outs is just as valuable to a small organisation as is the provision of high-level IT support, auditing and fundraising assistance. Helping school children with homework, mentoring young people and teaching literacy skills empowers members of the community in the same way that providing support for refugees, new migrants and first-time parents does. Social media know-how can be as essential to a not-for-profit as the ability to design newsletters and build websites. Community groups need painters, companions, buddies, advisers, builders, photographers and musicians. The list could go on. And on. But you get the picture. What is important is making sure that others get it too.

If you’re reading this, chances are you are already well aware of the plethora of volunteering opportunities out there.  If that’s the case, you’ll be well placed to help others understand the contributions they can make, no matter what their circumstances are and no matter what skills they have. If the best way to achieve this is by actually showing people this potential, then I’m hoping that National Volunteer Week 2015 will showcase some of the most creative and diverse voluntary roles on offer.

So make the most of NVW. Tell everyone about the volunteering you’re involved in. Share stories about interesting volunteer projects. Help others to see that there is a place for them to volunteer.

* The term interview is used loosely – it’s more of a chat. If you would like to volunteer but don’t know where or how, ring VW on 499 4570 and come in for one of these chats. We work with over 400 organisations in the Wellington Region and at any given time have over 500 available roles on our volunteer database – you’re sure to find something you like!