Volunteering provides real world experience, looks great on a resume and connects you with your community. It can provide opportunities for you to meet like-minded people, travel, undertake free courses, or allow you to gain an in-depth understanding of issues and events faced by many Australians. It can make your heart soar (or sink), help you develop passion for certain causes, or just give you a broader overview on how stuff works. It can make you better-equipped to make decisions or help you to appreciate your own circumstances. Best of all, the time and energy you devote to other human beings can provide them with options or opportunities they never thought possible.
Volunteering for an organisation/cause you’re passionate about can be one of the most rewarding experiences you will have. Heaps of organisations rely on volunteer workers to achieve their goals and create genuine change for people in unfortunate circumstances. I volunteer as an admin and training officer for the Emergency Services Cadet Program and also as a Field Operations member in my local SES unit. I also was lucky enough to volunteer as a teacher at a slum school in Cambodia at the beginning of the year, which was an incredible experience. Projects Abroad organised my placement including meals, accommodation and transport by tuk-tuk to my school every day. (They are pretty awesome and have placements in heaps of countries, from Jamaica to Nepal!)
On a local level, there is limitless opportunity so if you’d like to contribute something meaningful these holidays, here is a list of some of the places I’d recommend:
Your local State Emergency Service (SES)
Remember the floods and cyclones that struck QLD at the end of 2010 through to early 2011? All the orange angels you saw on the TV assisting in flood damaged areas were ordinary citizens volunteering their time to help others. In our area, the SES assists with community events (like marshalling Anzac Day parades), assists the police in forensic searches and missing persons searches, and tarps down roofs, fills sandbags, and sets up welfare to feed SES members, firies, ambos and police on large scale operations.
Full training is provided by your local SES unit. First aid, operating communications equipment, working safely at heights, ropes, knots & holdfasts, ladders, storm response, land search, emergency lighting and generators, vertical rescue, flood boat operations, map reading and navigation, chainsaw operations and incident management are just some of the courses available to SES members. The SES-run courses are nationally accredited and are lots of fun if you’re the outdoorsy type. If not, you can always lend a hand in the operations centre, the kitchen or do some admin stuff. There is a job for everyone, regardless of your abilities.
The SES requires an ongoing commitment (usually weekly training) but it allows for a change in personal circumstances which may need you to step away from your post for a while (ie. exam time or an overseas holiday). Some of the other cool stuff I’ve gotten to do includes meeting the Premier at the Volunteers Day at Dreamworld, media liaison, and interviews with Toasted TV. In the case of large scale events (like the cyclone & floods) you can even go away on deployments for up to 5 days to help out where it matters the most. You will get a text message to advise you if there is something on, and if you can go then you just write back. If not, then just ignore the message. Because everyone is a volunteer, the SES understands that you have work/life commitments as well. To apply, call 1300 369 003.
Emergency Services Cadets
This is a youth development program largely funded by Emergency Management Queensland (EMQ). Cadet programs operate in locations all over Queensland, and the closest ones to Brisbane include Logan, Southwest Brisbane, Ipswich, Fassifern, Goodna and Southport. The program is free for children aged 13-18 (although they can’t join if they’re over 16 as it’s a 4 year program). They deliver similar training packages as the SES ones, and they operate in partnership with the police, fire and ambulance services as well as the SES. All of the courses delivered are nationally accredited training programs, and the cadets can use these to gain points for their QCE (Year 12 certificate).
The cadets participate in team building activities, learn field craft and survival skills, first aid, stretcher handling, ropes, knots & holdfasts, communications, and a host of other training packages. Local and regional camps are popular with the cadets and on a recent regional camp we did an 8 hour hike, 30m abseil, advanced creeking, canyoning, raft-building, canoeing, and rescue scenarios. The next camp I’m going on will include a day with the Rural Fire Brigade and a high ropes course at Mt Tamborine.
Cadets meet weekly in most areas, and to be an adult leader you will need to be 18 years or older, have a valid blue card (free for volunteers) and an interest in youth development. Even if you can only help out for a few nights a year, this is really rewarding and fun volunteer work! Adult leaders also have the opportunity to participate in regional planning weekends, training workshops and other youth development related events. Click here to find out about volunteering in your area.
Bridge to Brisbane
Sunday September 11, 2011. If running/walking 5-10km and fundraising isn’t your thing, how about volunteering some of your time on the day? Legacy is the major charity partner of the Bridge to Brisbane, and they are a charity created to assist families of deceased war veterans. You can volunteer as a drink station attendant, chip removal attendant, t-shirt collection attendant, pedestrian crossing attendant or recovery area volunteer. All volunteers receive a Bridge to Brisbane “Event Crew 2011” t-shirt and cap, certificate of appreciation and will go into the draw to win a 32G Apple iPad 2. Why not apply now?
The Salvation Army is a great organisation running opportunity shops (amongst many other services) throughout Australia. Op shops are places where you can drop off no longer needed furniture, clothing and bric-a-brac, and the Salvos sell all this stuff at heavily discounted prices. Op shops are great for finding vintage books and fabrics, cut price clothing, kooky kitchenware and to stretch your dollar a whole lot further. They are not just for people doing it tough – shopping with a conscience means that 100% of the profits are returned to the community through the Salvation Army providing meals for the hungry, beds for the homeless, help with finding jobs for the unemployed, and refuge for the abused. If you consider yourself a merchandising whiz, a fashionista, a customer service guru or you just have a bit of free time, why not volunteer at a Salvos near you? Click here to search for opportunities.
This is an organisation dedicated to raising awareness of young people with disabilities who are forced to live in aged care homes. They lobby the government for political reform, support families affected with counselling services and in-home care grants, and establish residences to accommodate some of the 6,500 young Australians sadly forced to live in aged care facilities. Find out how you can volunteer by clicking here.
The million opportunities that I promised are everywhere you look, on noticeboards, in the paper and most significantly on the net. If none of these sound like stuff you’d be into, track down something that suits you here or here or even here!
Where do you volunteer? What do you get out of the experience? Or are you looking for some uni students to help out at your non-profit organisation? Comment below!