2015 is here and is already shaping up to be a great year for volunteering. This year I have been privileged to experience the positive effects of volunteering, both as a volunteer and a recipient of others’ volunteering.In January, My husband and I volunteered on our girls’ school sailing trip to Quarantine Island. This was great – in return for helping organise food and students, and we had a mini-holiday. We spend two nights on amazing Quarantine Island. In amongst our volunteer “duties” we enjoyed some fantastic sailing, and were able to meet and get to know some of the other parents and students going to school with our kids. We came back relaxed and energised – a nice start to the New Year.Then over Waitangi Day weekend, my friend Kim and I completed the Humpridge Track’s annual fundraising event – Stump the Hump – where the crazy people who enter, walk the entire 62km of the Humpridge track in under 24 hours. This is not an easy feat – especially if you have been a bit slack on the training as we had!! The walk involves an uphill and downhill climb from sea level to almost 1000km in elevation. Ignorance is bliss (or blisters as I found out first hand) and I had definitely underestimated how tough walk this would be.
However, the volunteers at each of the 12 checkpoints along the way were on to it and they provided support that touched our hearts and fuelled our souls to keep on walking one foot in front of the other the whole way.Our first few hours walking in the dark we were greeted by Volunteers who lit the way with glow torches, dressed up as zombies, angels, fairies and more. They cheered us on and kept our spirits almost as high as the hill we were about to climb.
At 7:15am, after seven hours of clambering over tree roots in the dark to the elusive top which frustratingly teased itself out to the very end, we were greeted by friendly, smiling volunteers with hot porridge, sweet cups of tea, hot water bottles, and a sweet seat by the hot fire.Reaching that first hut I was completely overwhelmed by the kindness, organisation, professionalism and genuine care and attention that all those volunteers showed to us all. And it kept on coming – 20 km’s later we reached the second hut we were greeted by the volunteer “MASH unit.” A volunteer dressed in a white doctor’s coat brandishing a sandwiches and a hot cup of soup ran to enthusiastically greet us at the door and cheer us in. Other volunteers dressed in “scrubs” were tending blisters, strapping up sore knee joints and ensuring that people were ok to continue walking the remaining distance.The passion and love these volunteers had for the track, the event and their community shined through. As one volunteer said, “We love this event and want it to continue each year. We don’t want any accidents or anything to stop it from happening next time, so that is why we are here – to make sure you are all safe.”We continued on to the very end, and along the way were again greeted by the zombies, angels, and fairies that had stayed all night, waiting to cheer us on again. At the finish point, even though we were one of the last to finish, we were importantly announced over loud speaker, cheered in, and greeted again by volunteers who promptly gave us a cold beer, a sausage and a t-shirt!After completing this sore-legged journey, I realised was how happy it makes me feel to work for an organisation that seeks to help people to make a positive impact in the lives of others every day, like these volunteers made on me.
We don’t have to be touched by a disease, suffering financial strife, or a victim of abuse to benefit from the difference volunteers make; Volunteers make life more enjoyable for all of us, no matter where we are on life’s journey. Volunteering, whether you are giving your time or you happen to be a recipient of someone else giving their time, helps to create a kinder, gentler and more connected community for us all.