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Celebrating Volunteers

Farah Parkinson
05 Dec 2019

International Volunteer Day (IVD) is celebrated globally on December 5 to raise awareness on the important role volunteers play in responding to challenges facing the world.

We asked our speakers with volunteering experience to share their thoughts on how they, and the teams of volunteers that they work with, make a world of difference.

Arron Wood founded and runs a national peer-to-peer teaching program called Kids Teaching Kids that has been a huge success with 135,000 students taking part in the program over the last 20 years. Arron attributes a huge part of this success to the tireless efforts of volunteers.

"Without our volunteers, Kids Teaching Kids wouldn’t exist. They give up their time to do everything from cooking BBQ lunches, mentoring students on the topic they’ve chosen to present on, to assisting student presenters with props and IT support and taking on the role of group leader at our flagship event in Melbourne.”

When it comes to managing teams of volunteers, Arron says it’s important to provide them with appropriate support and acknowledgement to ensure they have a rewarding experience.

"I strongly believe it’s also really important that volunteers know the impact your program delivers so they can feel part of the bigger picture.”

One of his favourite parts of the volunteer program is the partnerships between older volunteers and students.

"I love seeing the enthusiasm of the younger generation combined with the wisdom of our elders. It’s such a powerful mix that makes me hopeful for a more sustainable future."

Annabelle Chauncy OAM is the founding director of School for Life Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation working in rural Uganda to build schools in order to provide communities with a quality education, including primary and secondary schooling, vocational training and other services – such as employment and healthcare solutions.

Annabelle, who founded the organisation at 21, says, “School for Life is privileged to have a 30-strong army of volunteers. Their roles cover marketing/communications, grant writing, administration and events support. We also have a fundraising committee who significantly contribute to the funds raised by SFL throughout the year."

“Running a non-profit, we need to maximise our resources to expand our impact and building a skilled volunteer army is a great way to do it. I am constantly amazed how many skilled people apply to use their talents to make a difference, whether they’re university students who have some time, or people on the tail end of their careers with more niche expertise.

“I believe that people genuinely want to use their skills to make a difference and when you can align them to vision and purpose, it has a really powerful impact. Our volunteers often comment that giving their time and expertise actually gives them more than they get – they feel fulfilled and useful, they know they’re contributing to something bigger than themselves and they’re part of an engaged community and team rallying around global education.

“Volunteers want to be part of a bigger movement (something bigger than themselves). Every cog in the wheel is important, whether it is, in our case, writing letters, making phone calls, sourcing donations, cleaning data or doing more strategic work. When volunteers feel aligned to the greater organisational vision, they will be most effective. They will give what they can and strive for excellence. Volunteers bring a unique energy to a team and their contributions are invaluable,” says Annabelle.

Peter Baines OAM developed his unique leadership style leading international identification teams in Indonesia and Thailand after acts of terrorism and the 2004 South East Asian tsunami. After meeting the children left orphaned by the tsunami, Peter felt compelled to act and founded an Australian charity called Hands Across the Water that has gone on to create opportunities for hundreds of children across Thailand. In just over 12 years, Hands Across the Water has raised more than $20 million for children and communities in Thailand, and now cares for more than 350 children throughout the country.

Through his work with Hands Across Water Peter has had the pleasure of working with and leading many teams of volunteers.

"Volunteers provide the resources for the engine room of many organisations in the for purpose sector. Without their gift of time, expertise and wisdom, many of us could simply not do what we do."

Elliot Costello is a social entrepreneur who, in 2008, co-founded YGAP. His charity has significantly and measurably improved the lives of over 580,000 people living in poverty by finding and supporting impact entrepreneurs in some of the world’s toughest communities. Elliot believes that local leaders have the solutions to local problems, and has backed 398 early-stage impact ventures. YGAP raises funds through an entrepreneurial approach; owning and running profitable social ventures and running innovative global fundraising campaigns.

In 2004 Elliot also launched the Polished Man Campaign. The campaign asks men and women to paint one fingernail during the month of October to represent the one child that dies every five minutes as a result of violence. The campaign has seen the likes of Chris Hemsworth, Kelly Slater and even the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull paint their finger nails and has raised an incredible $3.2 million so far.

Elliot views civic engagement through volunteering as the backbone of our nation.

"As local, national, and global problems seemingly amount, every Australian who dedicates their time and energy by volunteering in their community is responding in an important way.”

Australia's culture when it comes to volunteering is a point of pride for Elliot.

"I am so proud to come from a country that values the less fortunate; a country that is willing to help out their fellow citizens to improve our communities.The best times of my life has been spent volunteering. I commend every volunteer who we are celebrating."

Jimmy Pham is the founder of not-for-profit social enterprise KOTO (which stands for 'Know One, Teach One) in Vietnam. With a professional background in tourism and hospitality management, Jimmy returned to his home country in the 90s to complete a work assignment where he witnessed the struggle of youth living rough. The idea of KOTO was born and KOTO was established in 1999 as a sandwich shop that then grew into a locally and internationally recognised social enterprise, consisting of two training restaurants and a training school, with another training facility expected to open in 2019.

When KOTO first started in 1999, only nine street youths worked at the sandwich shop. 19 years on, the lives of over 1,000 graduates have been transformed through KOTO’s 24-month vocational training program.

Jimmy credits this success “In no small part to the continued support and generosity and commitment of volunteers.”

As KOTO mark its 20th Anniversary this year they, along with the Australian Ambassador, are acknowledging the achievements of their volunteers across their celebrations

KOTO currently benefits from volunteer support through the New Colombo Plan, Australian Volunteer Program and self-funded volunteers from across the globe.

Sam Johnson is one of New Zealand’s most inspiring young citizens and became a household name in New Zealand when he started what has become New Zealand’s largest volunteer movement – the internationally acclaimed Student Volunteer Army. What started as a small social media page after the devastating Christchurch earthquakes has been mirrored across the globe as a movement for impact, not an organisation for ego. He now leads the SVA Foundation, a nation-wide New Zealand charity that helps people become volunteers.

Sam says their work is focused on getting people, 'off the couch' to try something new, a simple mantra that has guided their movement and his work in the volunteering sector.

Sam believes that volunteering is “The single best thing we can do to build empathy, understanding and resilience to shocks in our workplaces, teams and at home."

This belief is backed up by the 2018 United Nations Volunteers report that highlights how the connections built between people who are volunteering strengthen trust and social cohesion in a community, and build the ability to self-organise as a group.

Sam notes that, "In each of our disasters, the work of professionals has been exceptional, but it's the work of volunteers that so often goes unnoticed and is under-appreciated.”

Best mates Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett built Orange Sky Laundry, a free mobile laundry, in their old van at the age of 20 to help the homeless. Since then the project has rapidly expanded to 11 vans in Brisbane, Melbourne, SE Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, Canberra, Hobart, Perth, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Wollongong and New Zealand.

Of the 6 million people in Austraila who call themselves volunteers - and 1,600 of them volunteer with Orange Sky.

Nic and Lucas are using this to help celebrate, 'the amazing impact of our volunteers all around Australia and the difference they make in our friends' lives through genuine conversation and connection. We are continually inspired by the stories of our volunteers."

Seb Terry is known worldwide for pursuing an incredible list of 100 Things that he wants to achieve before he dies.

Today 100 Things acts as a conduit introducing those in need of help to those who are able to help. This latest evolution is called Kindsum, a peer-to-peer platform connecting people who NEED help to people who CAN help. Seb believes that as people we all have the innate ability and desire to help others, the issue is finding the opportunity. Kindsum is a way sharing the stories of those in need with people who are interested making a positive difference; in that sense match-making acts of kindness.

"Volunteering in my view is the most beautiful of ways for people to connect in a genuine and authentic way that cuts to the core of why we’re here; to help one another grow and succeed," says Seb

When volunteers feel aligned to the greater organisational vision, they will be most effective. They will give what they can and strive for excellence. Volunteers bring a unique energy to a team and their contributions are invaluable Annabelle Chauncy OAM
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