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March 28, 2011 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Peas & Queues

You’ve all been jealous of the UC Volunteer

Student Army in the wake of Christchurch’s quaking, haven’t you? Guiltily thinking if only there was a major natural disaster here in Wellington, we’d show those Canterbury eggs how you really shovel shit. Not to worry my little do-gooders, there is volunteer work to be done here in Wellington.

There are a lot of reasons you should volunteer: it looks good on your CV, you meet lots of people (and the more people you know, the better your chances of getting a job); it allows you try out a bunch of different stuff, so you know whether you like it before you do a degree in it; and most importantly, you meet other hot boys/girls who are into volunteering.

If you’re convinced, you’ve got to spend some time thinking about what the right volunteer job is for you.

First, think about what makes you cry like a baby when you think about the tragedy and unfairness of it all. Is it illiteracy? Starving kids? Beaten wives? People not being well-dressed for job interviews? Naughty kids without role models? Former refugees who can’t speak English? Lonely old people? People not having computers in homes? The imminent collapse of the ecological system? Volunteer jobs often involve shitty, menial, hard tasks—unless you’re volunteering for Salient that is—and you’ll need to believe that what you’re doing is making a contribution to something you really think matters.

Unfortunately, good intentions alone are of no use whatsoever to an under-funded, stressed out community sector. You need some skills. It can be anything—data entry, stuffing envelopes, giving out food, jingling buckets, graphic design, providing fashion advice, fixing stuff, writing stuff, listening—and everyone has got something to offer, but you need to be clear about what that is.

Lastly, you need to be honest with yourself and others about how much time you have. Some community organisations would happily have you volunteering full-time if you didn’t set down the boundaries, so just like a regular job, set some working hours. It’s also important you don’t over-commit to a volunteer role, because there is nothing worse than an unreliable volunteer.

Once you’re clear on all that stuff, start approaching some organisations to see if you help. If you’re stuck for ideas, go and talk to Volunteer Wellington. They ask about your skills and interests and then match you up with the right organisation. Go visit them at Level 3, Community House, 84 Willis Street or call them on 499 4570.


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