Who Volunteers?

Firstly, an apology for the length of time since my last blog and the somewhat haphazard approach over the last few months. I will finish my term as President of the Country Women’s Association of NSW in just over a month and I think I have been a bit distracted by the light and the end of the tunnel, a family wedding and the salvaging of my neglected garden to host it plus a few unrelated issues that have tested my patience and temper. Emotions that sometimes get in the way of imagination and inclination.

Enough excuses, it’s time to be “onward and upward” as those with the stiff upper lip would say (sounds painful … wonder how the saying came about …?). So here we go!

I spent Good Friday volunteering at our CWA Tea Rooms, which is most efficiently run each year by the hard working members of our Show Catering Committee and around 400 “extras”, at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. It is always interesting and enlightening to interact with the patrons, from both the city and the bush, who are either new to the scone “experience” or seasoned visitors having their annual scone “fix”.
scones - Jackie's sister

As I chatted to those enjoying a welcome rest with their preferred choice of sustenance whilst clearing tables (yes, clearing tables – there are no presidential privileges when all hands are needed on the CWA deck) I noted, with some pride, the respect most of them had for the work our organisation does. Equally impressive was the number of young (and “youngish”) members and supporters who are turning up in their droves to help us with the mammoth task of running the Tea Rooms, to a continually high standard, day after day for a fortnight, every year.

It was invigorating to see the enthusiasm, energy and smiling faces of new members who were enjoying their first taste of the Tea Rooms experience whilst simultaneously marvelling at the clock-work precision that ensures the delivery of the best-ever Devonshire Teas and other tempting goodies, to what seems like a never-ending queue of (thankfully) very patient customers. A huge thanks to both the novices and the seasoned veterans for the time given.

Barbara Reichart with Scone Tally - Jackies sister              IMG_20160327_180448

Some of the aforementioned helpers are not members, but they work like Trojans alongside us, to ensure the standard of service is maintained and the goods delivered on (or close to) time. Some of them are spouses (we offer “brownie point” recognition), others are siblings, adult children, friends or neighbours of members who simply want to help. How fortunate are we that they know such persuasive CWA members? A special thanks to the non-member volunteers who can’t say “no”!

After lunch I switched stations and moved to back-of-house duties and scone cutting. There is some debate over whether this is considered a “promotion” or “demotion” … I look at it as being just another cog in the big wheel that keeps everything turning. Either way it gave me an opportunity, in my very attractive, disposable hair net, to reflect on the happenings of the morning and progress my percolating ponderings about volunteering.

Who volunteers? Why do they volunteer? How do they choose which organisation they might join? Are young people interested in volunteering and if so, what form does it take? In this technological age could I be assisting some distant organisation from my home in rural NSW? Perhaps, if my internet connection could cope?????

I do, in some respects, have my own experiences to draw on, but they have, at times, been limited in choice by distance and access, like many other things in rural areas … for example; might I have been a surf life-saver if I lived on the coast? I’d certainly be fitter but my skin specialist would be shaking his head.

In my search for answers I did what all good seekers do nowadays … albeit at somewhat slower speeds (thanks Telstra) … I asked Google! They didn’t disappoint and provided me with a very interesting report from the NSW Government, which pulls together information from other, very reputable suppliers of information and can be found at http://www.volunteering.nsw.gov.au/about-us/second-volunteering-strategy

This report actually dispels the myth that volunteers are fewer in number and articulates some of the barriers to offering one’s time to serve others.

Methinks there is not a shortage of volunteers, but a shortage of ideas on how to engage them.

Any suggestions?volunteer-652383_960_720

Sign Up and Be Counted

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As I drink my second cup of coffee for the day and write to you about our petition to ban the sale of energy drinks (EDs) to children under 18, I ponder discussions with my own children on this subject and the possible side effects of consuming too many. Their oft touted and very quick responses were along the lines of “no worse than your coffee, mum” and “the label says I can have….”

I thought about uttering the old “do as I say, not as I do” but reminded myself of the equally old “practice what you preach”, so decided instead to do some research. After locating my visual aids and a good source of light, the label lists ingredients such as….caffeine, sugar, taurine, herbal supplements, ephedrine, ginseng, guarana, etc. Some are found naturally and in all sorts of places, apparently.

Further reading from other sources indicates that by far the biggest issue is the amount of caffeine and the adverse effects when consumed in the quantities found in most EDs; insomnia, headache, rapid heart rate, nervousness, hypertension, anxiety, diarrhoea and caffeine dependence. The average energy drink contains 160 – 300mg caffeine per 500 ml serve. Coffee has 80 – 160mg and tea 40 – 120mg for an equivalent amount i.e. two cups.

Studies show that young teenagers who frequently consume these drinks on their way to school are more disruptive in class, have poor concentration and some have been admitted to hospital suffering heart palpitations. My morning coffee doesn’t do that and what happened to good old Weet Bix for energy?

A recent paper printed in the Medical Journal of Australia (Med J Aust 2012; 196 (1): 46-49) has shown that since 2004 there has been a 357% increase* in the number of calls made to the NSW Poisons Information Centre reporting caffeine toxicity from energy drink consumption among adolescents. The median age of these callers was 17 years and more than half of all calls were due solely to energy drink consumption – without alcohol.

photo_2030_20061012Another statistic: the sale of energy drinks is growing by more than 8 per cent a year. Last year they made up more than 35 per cent of all drinks sold in convenience stores, outdoing soft drinks, which came in at 31.5%. Interestingly, the Food Standards Code limits caffeine in soft drinks to a maximum of 145 milligrams/kg and our advice is that the industry has committed to no ‘direct marketing and advertising of EDs to children’. Yet they are sold on the same shelves, from the same outlets with no restrictions.

If, like me, you think we should clip those wings, then you might like to sign our petition. You’ll find details of your closest branch here, even in the city, so give them a call.

Time for a cup of…..tea, I think 🙂

* Percentage increase is from 65 reports in 2004 to 297 in 2010 – of which at least 128 cases
required hospitalisation.