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”.
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.
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.