Why giving your time is the best Chrissy gift of all
You can’t go anywhere without hearing about climate change. There’s no denying that it’s a critical issue for many of us when thinking about the future. Today as I walked to work I noticed a young man wearing a T-shirt with an image of Earth and text that said ‘Defend Tomorrow’ and it was clear what his views were.
It’s great to see this sort of passion, but it made me think about the thousands of volunteers who contribute to The Smith Family’s work, because their social conscience is undoubtedly just as strong as this man’s, just perhaps less overt.
Although many Australians are continuing to feel the effects of the global financial crisis, The Smith Family has been inundated with requests from members of the public to offer their services as volunteers over the Christmas period.
Many of these volunteers either had their working hours cut or were made redundant in recent times, but rather than losing hope during the job-hunting process, they have chosen to keep themselves busy and expand their skill-set through volunteering.
More than 3000 volunteers across the country have already offered the gift of their time and talent to help with Christmas hamper packing and delivery, as well as the administrative tasks associated with our Christmas Appeal.
In the 2008/09 financial year we valued the volunteering contribution to The Smith Family at $5.7 million, with more than 6500 volunteers contributing over 275,000 hours of their time to help us do our work. As well as offering Christmas support, during the year many of our volunteers acted as mentors for young people who were looking to make the often difficult transition from high school to work, or to further studies. Others became coaches, supporting students to improve their literacy skills through our homework clubs, or took on roles as tutors, providing basic English language skills to help refugees and new arrivals settle into their new communities.
According to a 2007 ABS report, 5.2 million people, or 34% of the Australian population aged 18 years and over, participated in voluntary work in 2006.* 57% of respondents acknowledged helping others or the community as a motivating factor for their volunteering. Interestingly, 44% also identified ‘personal satisfaction’ as a key reason.
Our own volunteers often report with some surprise the tremendous sense of self-worth they achieve from volunteering. It comes from the knowledge that they’re using their skills to give those who are struggling, a chance at a better future.
It’s fantastic that so many people from all walks of life stop to take a moment and think about what they can do about everything from climate change and the environment to issues of social disadvantage, and then take it a step further to translate their feelings into action.
I can’t thank our volunteers enough for the job they do throughout the year. Their efforts will ensure not only a brighter Christmas morning for the disadvantaged kids we support, but also the potential for a better future for them in the long term.
*Voluntary work Australia, Australian Bureau of Statistics, July 2007
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