Receiving from the act of giving

Receiving from the act of giving

Receiving from the act of giving

Updated 20 May 2014, 12:22 AEST

Volunteers play a vital role in the Australian community and more than 6 million Australians give up their time to lend a helping hand to hundreds of thousands of organisations around the country.

With this week marking the 25th anniversary of National Volunteer Week we've asked some volunteers about the work they do and what makes them keep going back?

Winschurill from Hong Kong - South Australian Country Fire Service
Winschurill from Hong Kong - South Australian Country Fire Service
ABC: Tiffany Milsom
"The Country Fire Service is a bunch of volunteers who work for free as firefighters, helping save lives and properties.

"I joined the Country Fire Service because I want to help the community and I think it's an exciting adventure and a great hobby and pastime.

"Volunteering as part of the community I think is very important because everyone looks up to you.

"It's good for making friends and ... generally meeting new people in South Australia and travelling throughout Australia to different jobs.

"Most of the time we don't really save lives, but we do save a lot of property, especially out in the rural areas. After those jobs that we do with strike teams - which is a big part of our job in the fire danger season - first off you're extremely tired, you just want to go to bed, but the next day you feel great about it and you want to continue helping the community.

"During summer it gets extremely hot and the humidity is quite low. It's easy to start fires and they spread quite viciously and dangerously throughout, especially in the farm properties up north (of South Australia)".
ABC: Tiffany Milsom

"I don't really know much about volunteering in Hong Kong …. but I do know that there is a big difference between the social life there. You have quite rich people and poor people and as part of volunteering - like in Australia with the Salvation Army helping disadvantaged people - they could possibly set up camps and help mentor them as well, help them appreciate life more.

Winschurill says that it's important that young people try to think about others and get to know the community better "you know taking 'selfies' on social media for example - quite a bit of a narcissistic play there," he says. "Again volunteering and helping others is always a great thing to do and people do appreciate that".

Cathy from China - Animal Welfare League of South Australia
Cathy from China - Animal Welfare League of South Australia
ABC: Tiffany Milsom
"Animal Welfare League is an organisation which helps homeless dogs and cats to find new homes. Also if they have medical conditions we treat them as well.

"I joined Animal Welfare League about a year or so ago now. I heard about it from a colleague - she adopted a dog and told me about her experience and what she saw. Later I learned from the website (Animal Welfare League) it is a non-government funded organisation to help with re-homing the dogs and cats, obviously that had lost their homes or were stray. That's something good for me to do and get involved with animals and also learn the training as well, as I am an animal lover.

"The calming canine program is one of the very important programs that we have in the Animal Welfare League. It's mainly for the dogs, to bring out their most confident selves for them to meet their future homes, and also to teach them some basic manners to make sure they can fit into their new homes okay.

"Being a volunteer I get lots of benefits as well. It really makes me happy. I can feel that I'm helping animals that are helpless and also you're trying to assist the staff.

"It would be very difficult if the world was completely without volunteers, because places like Animal Welfare League don't have enough funds to hire people, or have enough staff to do what they do. So the volunteer plays a very important role in these kind of organisations. It also brings in a diversity of people ... and different people might make it work better".
ABC: Tiffany Milsom
"I think a lot of people in Beijing are interested in volunteering, however maybe their time and their schedules are quite fast-paced compared to Australia.

"'Some universities and schools in Beijing started introducing these community and social work type of classes … to encourage the students to actually go out and help the society in different sorts of ways, mainly volunteering in their local council area.

"I think it's very important to teach students the idea of volunteering first. Gradually when they understand how important volunteering is, I'm sure lots of them will develop their own ideas. They will find it enjoyable and they will keep doing it.

"It helps a young person to think about the community as a big picture, not just themselves, and double think before doing. Once they've got an idea they can pass it onto their friends and family, eventually more volunteers will get involved. Being selfish is not sustainable and not good enough".
Wendy from Malaysia - Meals on Wheels (South Australia)
Wendy from Malaysia - Meals on Wheels (South Australia)
ABC: Tiffany Milsom
"Meals on Wheels provides nutritious meals to the community and the delivery drivers provide social contact to those people who are pretty isolated.

"When I was working I always said I wanted to do something within the community.

"At certain stages in our life there are always mortgages to pay, bills to pay. It was my dream that at some stage, when everything is paid off, that I wanted to do community work because you can accumulate things, have cars, have nice clothes, nice shoes, but you're still empty inside.

"I was reaching that stage where I sort of felt empty. I had things, but I felt empty and if I do community work that would fill that gap. When I first retired I thought just be careful, just because you work for nothing everyone wants to have you. So I took a year off and looked long and hard …. and decided on my local Meals on Wheels kitchen.

"It means everything to me to be a volunteer. I am working with a team of like minded people and I get more than I give, honestly.

"I look after my mum who's 90 years old and getting really frail and I'm a full on carer and by being able to come here (Meals on Wheels) it just gives that distraction. There's a couple of ladies here who I can talk to, that sort of know what I'm going through. Just that little bit of sharing makes it a lot easier".
ABC: Tiffany Milsom
"I think it's important to volunteer not only for the community but for yourself.

"It's a win-win situation… you get a lot more back. I get a lot of satisfaction, I feel really good inside, I don't feel empty. Meeting with like-minded people who share and work as a team.

"In Malaysia volunteering is not the done thing, not because people don't want to, I don't believe so. I think they just don't have the support from government, from organisations, because whatever volunteer group it is, you need financial support, planning support. I think people overall are happy to put their physical being in - but you still have to have the organisational structure set up".

If you're interested in volunteering search 'volunteering' and you'll find a number of websites that have details about organisations that need a helping hand.