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

“What big eyes you have, Grandma…”

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So now the countdown begins for one of our biggest fundraising events, the CWA Tea Room at the 2014 Royal Easter Show, which opens on 10April and continues until 23 April, 2014.

The call has gone out to members and friends to either volunteer their time during the event or to send donations of jams, pickles and fruit cakes which will be on sale at the tea rooms and my advice here is, if you want any of these items get your skates on because hotcakes are like the tortoise to our hare when it comes to how quickly they sell!!

Equally popular are the devonshire teas, evidenced by the almost 41,000 scones produced at last year’s event and customers often comment that their show ‘experience’ is not complete without a visit to our site. Not everyone partakes of the classic afternoon tea treat; some enjoy a savoury morsel, a cold drink, the weight of aching feet and a chance to chat to our ladies.

The CWA’s ‘mantra’ of late has been that we are more than just tea and scones and once lured into the “lair” by the “bait” we take every opportunity to ensure the “quarry” leave unscathed, well fed and watered, but with a better understanding of just how heterogeneous (love my thesaurus!) our organisation is.

This traditional city/country event affords us the opportunity to espouse the diversity of our membership; be it geographical, cultural, youthful and energetic or, older and wiser. It allows us to discuss the various community and state wide projects our members’ support, the total of which is almost $750,000.00 annually. Members also embrace the chance to explain how the organisation is evolving to continue to meet the needs of the women we support.

None of this would be possible without the mammoth effort put in by the members of the Show Committee; 9 ladies who work extremely hard before, during and long after all the other volunteers have waved their goodbyes and taken their weary bodies’ home. The tea rooms would/could not operate without their energy, enthusiasm, organisational abilities and of course, cooking skills! They are “on deck” all day, every day for not only the two weeks that the show runs but before, setting up and after, returning everything to its rightful place.

It’s definitely hard work, but the sense of achievement, the camaraderie, the response from and interaction with the public, are priceless. Sometimes we just assume they love it; they wouldn’t keep coming back if they didn’t, would they?

I’m hoping to volunteer a day, early to beat the rest of you for the best jams and pickles, so make sure you say hello…….if they haven’t got me on washing up duty!

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Christmas – Rowena Style!

The Rowena Bush Sleigh with Santa and his Elves

The Rowena Bush Sleigh with Santa and his Elves

Rowena Branch Members of CWA have, for many, many years, hosted the annual Christmas party for children who attend the local school, pre-school or who live on the mail run. I’m not exactly sure how long the tradition has been running but Jeff says Santa was making the Rowena Run when he was at school….and that’s a loooong time ago! Our children (who must have been good at some stage) participated in this long running activity and still enjoy catching up with Santa and reminiscing about their experiences; I overheard Josh comment that he didn’t recall receiving any gifts as good as some he noticed this year!!

Over those countless years Santa has arrived via many modes of transport with possibly the most exciting being a helicopter! Parts of the district had, unlike this year, received huge amounts of rain and an impassable creek dictated the trip from Santa’s Australian home should include a boat, bike, plane and finally the helicopter, which landed on the school oval, with the reverse required for the return journey. A huge team effort by some very generous locals, including Santa!

The Elves

Santa’s Elves

Santa and Emma

My daughter Emma with Santa

 This year Saint Nick was again transported by the local Rural Fire Service (aka Santa’s elves) in the red ‘bush sleigh’ complete with siren and flashing lights; swapping Reindeer power for horsepower because the Reindeer get overheated once the thermometer passes 30°C. The photo shows this year’s Elf Crew of Jeff and our youngest son Marc with Tim and David Cameron (State Secretary, Jocelyn’s, son and husband), a family affair with Jeff and David being cousins. There are other volunteers in Rowena, but they were digitally recording alleged evidence of good behaviour by their children/grandchildren, which could later be used against them.

Gifts for each age and gender, specially selected by The Chief Elf Organiser (CEO), were merrily distributed by Santa to those on the good list which, miraculously, included all the Rowena children! The P & C then provided a sausage sizzle that, along with other delicious contributions, fuelled energy levels for the disco that followed, where the Macarena and mirror ball proved almost as popular as Santa and the presents!

On a different note, I plan to give you a couple of weeks break from my ramblings, but would like to take this opportunity to thank you for following my new ‘journey’ and to wish you a Christmas filled with laughter and good company and may the New Year bring whatever you need most.

HO! HO! HO!