Living the heartbreak and joys of my volunteers

Living the heartbreak and joys of my volunteers

Leisa de Klerk, Manager at Volunteering Otago, reflects on her experiences and insights as a Volunteer Manager. Leisa demonstrates how managers of volunteers activate and support the volunteers that are the backbone of Aotearoa New Zealand. Volunteering could not happen as efficiently and effectively as it does if it wasn’t for the volunteer managers who lead, support and empower volunteers. Celebrate Volunteer Managers this International Volunteer Managers Day: it’s time to value and invest in managers of volunteers who activate and support over a million of us to volunteer in New Zealand.

“I’ve been employed in the volunteer sector for six years now and just saying that always give me a sense of amusement. As a ‘Volunteer Programme Lead’ or ‘Volunteer Manager’, people tend to assume that I’m in a volunteer role! I don’t really mind though – one thing that has kept me in these roles has been the amazing people that I meet on a daily basis so being mistaken for a volunteer is definitely a good thing.

“In my new role at Volunteering Otago, where I am the new manager for the volunteering centre, I’ve been able to see the volunteer sector run in so many different ways by so many different organisations. We have over 300 volunteer organisations on our books just for Dunedin so the social impact for the city in terms of volunteering is huge! And let’s be honest – without volunteering as a part of the Kiwi way of life, our beautiful country would grind to a halt. From the volunteers helping new migrants speak English, to the community supporting the marae, to the board members running so many of our Not-for-profits; there really is a volunteering role for everything. There’s a famous saying that goes something like, “Nobody ever got through life without being helped.”

Having the heart to give
“One of the most amazing things about volunteering has been about seeing people who came to me as a volunteer manager because they had the ‘heart to give’. These are people who are highly motivated to help. They see a need in the community, they have an interaction that piques their interest or there is an event that motivates them to stop this feeling of powerlessness. They react by volunteering. They do something about the issue they see because the other option is to do nothing. These people have the heart to help but do not necessarily have the skills and it is my job to give them those skills. There’s a number of different ways of doing this and it doesn’t stop at day-to-day support or initial training. It’s upskilling them, it’s giving them skills they can use in everyday life, it’s supporting them when their life takes a turn for the worse. It’s being there for your volunteers just as much as they are there for the people they are supporting.

“In my role I have lived the heartbreaks and joys of my volunteers with them. I have celebrated new babies and weddings with people I knew first as a volunteer. I have spoken at volunteers funerals, as they sadly leave our lives but not our hearts. There are volunteers who have become lifelong friends!

“Volunteering needs to be looked at holistically – it’s not a standalone role, it’s not a 5 minute job, it’s not something that you can put to one side once you’re finished. Even if you’re shaking a bucket on a street corner for your favourite charity, you’re making a difference. If you’re walking a dog for your local animal shelter, you’re making a difference. Never underestimate the power that you have to change the world, just by giving the gift of your time. Volunteer managers see your journey, they support your growth and they celebrate with you. You are so SO needed. Every Volunteer Managers day, I give thanks for all our volunteers, no matter where they are. Thank you!

Original post on Volunteering New Zealand here.