Volunteering to join a community group or pitching in to help one out is a way of strengthening communities.
An active and diverse civil society promotes social cohesion and public trust. If you want a community that supports your ideals, you have to be prepared to put something back.
These days volunteering means more than just dropping in on disadvantaged people to leave soup and blankets and good advice. Modern volunteering involves working with people and communities,
not just for them - becoming involved in their activities and committed to their goals. It involves identifying what matters to you and throwing all your enthusiasm behind it.
Volunteering involves engagement - joining in, joining up, working with and listening to the people you're supporting, making connections, using all of yourself in a good cause.
That's good for the community, and it's good for you. On a personal level volunteering helps you to develop your skills, build your social networks, and feel the satisfaction of knowing you've
made a contribution to your community.
Analyse the situation. Ask yourself
You want the world to be different - perhaps a little different, with a new bus stop at the end of the road, or perhaps completely different, with a new heaven and a new earth, or perhaps
something in between. Think out the changes you want to see, and find out who's working for them now.
Sometimes there's an overriding priority, and everybody has to jump on to the fire truck or raise money for flood or fire victims. Some things are urgent and important but you'd just be in the
way. Look around for something that needs to be done where your contribution can make a difference.
Are you a leader? A clear thinker? A warm and loving person? An expert on trains/birds/scones/laws/posters/cows/whatever? Do you have a strong back, or a medical degree, or a lifetime of
experience in the real world? Think a bit about what side of yourself is going to be brought to the front in your volunteer work.
The contribution you make can be restricted by
- geography (if you live in Alice Springs you can't volunteer for a surf club)
- resources (if you haven't got a car you can't volunteer far afield, if you haven't got a computer you can't
offer to edit the annual reports)
- internet access (if you don't have a fast link you can't be a virtual volunteer)
- other commitments (if you only have a hour a week free from work and children you shouldn't try and take on
the club presidency)
Finding your Opportunity
All these matters can influence your choice of where you want to help out, and picking your ideal group can be quite complicated. Sometimes the right cause recruits you, and at other times you
have to go out and look for it. Luckily, there are many Australian (and international) places designed to help you clarify what you're looking for.
These links give you information about who , what and where. They'll help you put your finger on a group that's right for you.
Joining a Community Group
Our Community's Community Directory - Join In, Join Up!
- has a wide listing of community groups you can join, covering many causes and many places, and most
of them will
welcome you with open arms. To find a group perfect for you, go to Join In, Join Up!