Monday 18th October 2021

Who’s A Volunteer? 34/2021.

Who’s a Volunteer? 34/2021.

It’s said, by many, that when you get to retire from paid work you might like to consider being a volunteer. I agreed with that notion.

Are you a volunteer?

Maybe you are not even retired but still a volunteer.

Here’s something about what this has been for me, and with a few notes about my husband’s experiences.

Retired Couple. 2015.

From this Australian government organisation in 2015 here is this.

           Definition: Volunteering is time willingly given for the common good and without financial gain.

The following areas are not considered to meet each of the core requirements of volunteering (‘without financial gain’, ‘willingly given’ and ‘for the common good’) and hence are not included in this definition of volunteering. It is acknowledged that many of these have a constructive, positive and vital role in society and may exist alongside volunteering and / or provide a pathway into volunteering.

• Direct family responsibilities are excluded. It is recognised that direct familial relationships vary for different people and social groups and so this is open to individual interpretation. In addition, foster carers have many similarities with volunteers, but because of the family relationship, these are outside this definition of volunteering.

• A number of programs are highly structured, with fixed requirements and provide options of volunteering type activities but with limited choice and/or varying types of in-built financial or reward outcomes. These vary widely and are excluded from this definition. Examples include:  Compulsory educational service learning (where students are required to volunteer as part of a course) Mandated court orders including community service and fines  Internships  Formal work experience / vocational placements  Mandatory government programs  Limited choice labour market government programs

• Volunteering requires a donation of time. Other types of donating such as giving money or materials and donating blood are not considered volunteering, although it is acknowledged there is a time element required in these forms of donating

My Experiences.

These started around the time I was in partial retirement from around 52. Later, they were when I was over 65.

  • With caring for our grandchildren, over time, for no financial reward ever but the joy of memories made. However, see above, ‘not about volunteering.’

 

  • teaching English in women’s homes in the community. A one-to-one experience, for which I had to do some training, at no cost to me, and also provide materials for the women. I enjoyed it and I think the two women became more confident over time of having an English speaker helping them I found it a bit too one-sided as the women, who were at home because of child-rearing were not completing even the smallest of ‘between times’ work. 

 

  • helping in Smith Family Parramatta  office prior to Christmas one year taking phone calls from people who wanted to register for the Smith Family Christmas hampers. This meant I had to drive into Parramatta, park my car, and attend the office for about 4 hours. I took down details and recorded them so families could be included by Christmas. It was quite boring for someone who had only recently ran a school but I also needed “not” to have responsibility to assist my mental health recovery. That role finished abruptly when I managed to break my ankle getting out of the car at home after a shift there. No, I did not pursue work related claim.

 

  • becoming a volunteer at local art gallery did not even reach training stage. Once we arrived on the Central Coast, I wanted to settle in (as I thought then) with some busy activities. Trouble was that emotionally I was not up to this role’s training requirements (I.B.S. would strike any time) and I also add that by the time I decided to step away from this, I realised how ‘cliquey’ the other volunteers were and felt excluded anyway. I was new to the area and ‘felt’ I was an outsider.

 

  • looking after ethics program in local area when we first moved to the  Central Coast seemed like a win/win for me as I needed some work of a productive kind while my husband already had his weeks in retirement sorted. I liked the people I met at the schools and was already helping get new people on board to be teachers when I felt something that did not seem quite right. You see, I felt conflict. I am, NSW teacher/principal at heart, and this program was independent to schools and I could see a conflict of interest  that I could not brush off. I sensed, and heard for good reason that it was an Us vs Them issue and I could not continue. I tried to let them have this feedback but it was a political hot potato and I left.

 

  • teaching mindful colouring was something I was passionate about in the midst of my first year of doing my best to settle to a new way of life. The local independent bookshop was happy to support my plan where I would supply all materials and I just needed a space. A local cafe owner said yes to that as we would be buying coffees. And off we went. We had 4 the first week. Then down to 3. Sadly, I was not prepared to continue because of this. I really did think this would work. No it did not. 

 

  • creating bookmarks for the charity The Big Hug Box. This was a passion for me as I was using my distraction activities of art, designs and more to create bookmarks as part of my post-cancer treatments. I’d be helping this new 2018 charity with my donations of goods and time. I also donated more than 300 bookmarks over time and took part in a packing day. Still on call if needed but I stopped the bookmarks.

 

  • teaching mindful mandala making and colouring because I wanted to share the ways in which this is helpful for our emotional health. I instigated this idea through my local library. Honestly, just as well I have determination because so many stumbling blocks were put in my way… no personal indemnity insurance ( and no, I was not going to pay for it) and then, oh, you would have to do our volunteer course to do this here, and no we don’t have any training coming up. I was ready to give up, when the local librarian – all part of the huge council area – said, you can have the space and I will say I am the organiser. Truly. Anyway, it went well over 4 weeks. I provided everything. I did offer it again, and waited in the empty room on two occasions and after that, I did not return.

 

  • I also offered to a women’s shelter that I could do this course in mindful colouring if they thought there was a need. They said yes, but without my person indemnity insurance, I could not start. So, another loss.

 

  • I also supplied Chris O’Brien Lifehouse with books of my designs and many pieces of media for in-patient art and visitors’ mindful colouring as it was a practical contribution I could make as I lived 2 hours away.

 

  • I am an ‘unofficial’ supporter  of Public Education via my social media and other presence and it’s one way I like to stay supportive and connected. 

 

  • In 2017 I was diagnosed with a head and neck cancer, and in a way to help me understand more about my cancer (there are many types of head and neck cancer) my two surgeons directed me to what was then called Beyond Five. Over time, I learned more about Beyond Five and the almost 100% volunteer support it requires the website going, changing and being of use. About a year into my recovery, I shared my story with Beyond Five, and then following my head and neck team’s assurance I seemed to be doing the right thing with my social media and other messages, I was invited to become an  Ambassador for what is now called Head and Neck Cancer Australia.

 

  • Being a member of the local Central Coast Head and Neck Cancer support group which meets monthly and being a contributor to sharing knowledge and awareness to others affected as patients or carers or family members.

 

  • I was very pleased to know I could be a mentor for Public Education via another way, supporting a student with a funded scholarship. However, over the time of being accepted, and then getting ready to help this person, I was not confident of the ways in which the program was run. I wanted to feel I could find support as I was learning the program via on-line systems but with little to no communication, I have declined their offer. Sadly, with some organisations this can be what happens.

 

  • My blog has been a voluntary activity. I have been able to write, share, find friends from this amazing medium. I do it all on my time, when I can, and it’s a great volunteer role because “I” am in charge of this one. My blog is over 10 years old now and brings me a great deal of personal reward.

My Husband’s Experiences: not all as a retiree! The last 3 were.

  • P&C President at our local primary school for 7 years our son was there.
  • Scouts President whilst our son was part of cubs.
  • Volunteer Teacher of Children in The Westmead Kids’ Hospital.
  • Safety House Co-ordinator in our neighbourhood in the 1980s -1990s- remember those?
  • Local Community Progress Association President.
  • President Local Drama Society in a Country Town.
  • Musical Director of performances over 3 years in that town.
  • President Ecumenical Council at local Church in the country town
  • National Charity Telephone Crisis Support.
  • National Charity  Face to Face Counsellor.
  • Driver: Cancer Patients To Appointments.

Some feedback we would LOVE to give to organisations where we no longer volunteer. Do not, please, take our service or time for granted. In my husband’s case, he PAID hundreds of dollars towards his training to be National Charity TSC…and as he was also doing a University course to become a trained counsellor, there were costs there. However, he was pleased to be able to help and learn via his supervisors how he was proceeding. This is when it becomes tricky. Those ‘people’ in charge of volunteers are paid and for some, the power of the position became a lack of respect in dealings over time. It does not take too much guessing to know why volunteers may leave. In my husband’s case, he did leave to become my carer as I had just had my cancer diagnosis. In another instance, the driving role, the system was so poorly organised on some days he would leave our place at 8.00 a.m. and not return till 6.00 p.m. because of poor planning for patients’ needing being collected, taken to the hospital and then collected.

He no longer performs any volunteer roles. 

 

Some further comments about volunteering here.

https://www.oversixty.com.au/lifestyle/retirement-life/5-amazing-benefits-of-volunteering-in-retirement

1. Stay active and engaged with life

2. Helping others makes you feel happy

3. Make new social connections

4. Have new experiences and learn new skills

5. Change someone’s life – change your own

 

My husband and I also ask each other, is it because we have both been leaders in our work places that we find it hard(er) to be a volunteer….or maybe that is not the reason. We can also see that organisations who need volunteers  to assist their services must go through quite a bit themselves in judging suitability and more. It’s perhaps the reason why I wrote this post. I was so sad to relinquish the mentor role but I also knew, that understanding my need to clarity and certainty in doing this role well, I could not, if I had not a great deal of faith in the organisation’s representative. 

This post comes under a few of my topics, including stories about ageing which I write about from time to time. I know you do not have to be a retiree to volunteer but most of my activities were then. 

Are you a volunteer?

Tell us more.

Denyse.

Linking up here with Leanne for Lovin Life Linky

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

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