Volunteers valuable

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Volunteers play a valuable role in the Waimakariri district, particularly those in the older age group.
Waimakariri District Council community development facilitator Karen Lindsay-Lees says supporting volunteers, and the organisations which engage their services, remains a priority for the council’s community team.
She says the district has a ‘‘healthy number of volunteers, but there are still some gaps’’. Three-quarters of regular volunteers are women, with two-thirds aged 46 to 75.
To coincide with National Volunteer Week last month she prepared a report to the council’s community and recreation committee, following a community survey.
‘‘Now we have a story about what’s happening so we can find solutions and provide some responses.
This information will also allow organisations to share resources so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel.’’
She says around 60% of the Waimakariri population is volunteering in one form or another, ‘‘whether it’s managing a kids’ soccer team, or volunteering at CAB or it could be a oneoff at a school fair. And that’s probably on par with the rest of New Zealand’’.
‘‘A lot of things wouldn’t happen in this district if we didn’t have volunteers.
The contribution volunteers are making in New Zealand is believed to be worth $3.3 billion to the economy.
‘‘People are willing to put their hands up, but there’s a gap in regular volunteers.
Many people aged 25 to 45 years are working and have children, but there are opportunities there to promote what volunteering means and for organisations to be more flexible for people with busy lives.’’
Volunteering New Zealand has made several recommendations which Ms Lindsay-Lees says could help in the Waimakariri district, including: increasing public awareness through the media, providing better information about the range of opportunities available and maximising social media.
Breaking up long-term roles into several smaller roles for people with different skill sets could attract ‘‘busy people’’, while internships could attract younger volunteers looking for work experience.
Rewarding volunteers with perks such as petrol vouchers, reimbursement of expenses or discounts on membership could also help in retaining volunteers.
Ms Lindsay-Lees says volunteering is also a useful way for new families to get to know their community.
She says the community team will be exploring options with local organisations to help improve volunteer experiences in the district.
‘‘We want to get people together and decide what actions they want to do, so it will be led by the volunteer organisations.
Hopefully inthe next month or two we will have an action plan.’’