Volunteering: Young people weigh in on how important it is to volunteer

SPREADING SMILES: Dubbo's Isobel Humphreys, Tom Norman and (left) Portia Hawke. Photos: CONTRIBUTED.
SPREADING SMILES: Dubbo's Isobel Humphreys, Tom Norman and (left) Portia Hawke. Photos: CONTRIBUTED.

These volunteers have the Christmas cheer all year as they give back to different communities in a multitude of ways.

These stand-out citizens have taken time out of their busy lives to plant trees, fight fires, be a part of the local show, raise awareness for cancer, volunteer at the library and more, and if you ask them their lives are better for it.

Portia Hawke of Orange spends her spare time volunteering in a myriad of ways, from being a part of the youth committee at headspace, planting trees, volunteering at the Orange Library and organising and attending the Orange Same-Sex Marriage rally in 2017. The 18-year-old has also just completed the Higher School Certificate.

Miss Hawke said a highlight in her volunteering career would be the youth committee at headspace. The committee was organised to give youth the opportunity to have their voices heard.

"[We're] asked for advice on issues, help with decisions about youths. It's really fun and I've made a lot of friends," she said.

Portia Hawke (left) with Molly Harris organised Orange's same-sex marriage rally. Photo: JUDE KEOGH 1115jkyes3

Portia Hawke (left) with Molly Harris organised Orange's same-sex marriage rally. Photo: JUDE KEOGH 1115jkyes3

Dubbo's Isobel Humphreys is no stranger to volunteering, having started helping in campdrafts when she was young and becoming involved in more committees and societies since then.

The 19-year-old has turned her own grief into a way of helping others.

"When I was 14 I became involved with the organisation CanTeen who support young people living with cancer. CanTeen and its volunteers helped me through one of the toughest times in my life, losing my dad," she said.

"Because of that, my passion to volunteer and ensure no young person faces cancer alone is stronger than ever. I have been lucky enough to take part in five annual Bandanna Days along with advocating for regional young people to gain more support."

The volunteering doesn't stop there, Miss Humphreys also finds time to help out with the Dubbo Show Society.

I've personally experienced the power of volunteers and experienced first-hand people's generosity when they give up their time.

Isobel Humphreys.

"Last year I was fortunate enough to experience the Showgirl moment through the Dubbo Show Society. It's there that I saw amazing individuals with passion and experience to achieve great things for our local community. Volunteering for the show society I aim to continue the movement of Showgirl and ensure that young people continue to have a say in what happens to our community," she said.

Thomas Norman of Bathurst is a real hero of NSW at the moment, in the work he has done with the NSW Rural Fire Service. Mr Norman has been over at the North Coast and fighting fires as recently as November.

"I always wanted to do something and my friend was a volunteer firefighter, so I followed him into it," the 25-year-old said.

Mr Norman has been a part of the Bathurst Bushfire Brigade since 2014 and has seen a variety of seasons.

"We had a quiet season last year, but this year there have been constant deployments, we can go away for up to five days at a time. I just got back from Taree a few weeks ago," he said.

The reason for volunteering is different for Miss Hawke, Mr Norman and Miss Humphreys, but each has reported the positive impact it has had on their lives and the friendships they have made along the way.

Miss Humphreys commends anyone who is willing to give up their time to volunteer.

"I've personally experienced the power of volunteers and experienced first-hand people's generosity when they give up their time," she said.

Young and old work together when volunteering

The nature of volunteering is changing, how locals can help a community group has expanded past raffle tables and event organisation.

Three young people from generations Y and Z frequently give up their spare time to volunteer and give back back to the community. If you ask them though, the stigma around millennials and volunteering is just hype.

Dubbo's Isobel Humphreys. Photo: CONTRIBUTED.

Dubbo's Isobel Humphreys. Photo: CONTRIBUTED.

Dubbo's Isobel Humphreys, 19, said there is a lot of young people volunteering locally.

"I think there is a strong amount of young people who have the ability to achieve great things within our community," she said.

"Within the Dubbo Show Society there is a group of very determined and knowledgeable young people who willingly give up their time. Coming through the ranks I also see young volunteers in the agriculture industry and shaping our future."

If you ask 18-year-old Portia Hawke the way people are volunteering is changing.

"A lot more younger people are volunteering, I think we're making our space to volunteer in," the Orange resident said.

Bathurst's Thomas Norman is an advanced volunteer fire-fighter, he said their brigade has been a mix of generations since he started in 2014.

"Everyone chips in from every age range, I've never seen a problem [between generations]," he said.

Everyone chips in from every age range, I've never seen a problem [between generations].

Thomas Norman.

The most recent census data states females are more likely to volunteer than males (21 per cent compared to 17 per cent) and people are most likely to volunteer in their late teens, 40s and senior years. People in rural areas are more likely to volunteer than people in urban areas.

All three volunteers have made new friends through the experience and had friends get involved in volunteering.

Mr Norman joined when a friend did back in 2014 and has been a member of the RFS ever since. As their brigade is the closest to Charles Sturt University he's seen a lot of people come through from there.

Miss Hawke has seen a lot of her peers volunteer when she organised the same-sex marriage rally in 2017.

Miss Humphreys was overwhelmed by the response of young people who showed up to the CanTeen regional fun day in Orange during November.

"We had a great response from people around the Central West, it was such a big step towards ensuring that no young person experiences cancer alone," she said.

So you want to volunteer...now what?

If you want to volunteer it's simple, visit volunteering.com.au, volunteering.nsw.gov.au or google the place you would like to give your time.

"In NSW more than 2.1 million people are giving countless hours of their time to help others," Minister for families and communities, Gareth Ward said in a statement.

Bathurst's Thomas Norman. Photo: CONTRIBUTED.

Bathurst's Thomas Norman. Photo: CONTRIBUTED.

"They are people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds and together they are the backbone of community organisations, sporting clubs and charities.

"When someone volunteers everyone benefits, and there is so many ways you can make a difference."

Become familiar with what's involved and reach out to the organisation to offer help.

When someone volunteers everyone benefits, and there is so many ways you can make a difference.

Portia Hawke.

"If you want to volunteer, get online and look at a place you're passionate about, talk to people on committees, make your place in volunteering," 18-year-old Portia Hawke from Orange said.

You can find something to suit your schedule or style, whether it's helping in a one-off event or making an ongoing commitment.

Advanced Firefighter, Thomas Norman from Bathurst, believes communication is important.

"Firefighting isn't for everyone, but go down to your local branch and say g'day," he said.

Usually, you have to be over 18 to volunteer or have parents consent. For some volunteer roles you may need something like a police check or a working with children check. You might need to do a training course or a trial before you can volunteer.

Miss Hawke said her volunteering experience has shown how she can affect change.

"[My peers and I] want to make a difference."

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