Written by Petrina Fraccaro, CEO, Cystic Fibrosis Queensland
A volunteer is a person who does something, especially helping other people, willingly and without being forced or paid to do it. Volunteering is an activity that is undertaken by an individual for no financial reward and benefits someone other than the person who volunteers. Every year, thousands of people across Australia devote a generous amount of time and energy to volunteer in different organisations.
Volunteers are an important human resource for many organisations, and the reasons people give for being a volunteer are as individual and unique as the volunteering roles they undertake.
Volunteer activities take many forms; involvement in voluntary associations, activism focusing on social change or donations of money, supplies or blood donations. Other expressions of volunteering are mutual help in the health and social welfare ﬁeld, philanthropy to others within voluntary or community organisations. Volunteers in hospitals, schools, religious organisations, sporting clubs, charities, and other organisations all greatly contribute to our community and enrich society.
My introduction to volunteering was when I was seven and I joined the Broken Hill Barrier District Brownie and Girl Guides. Yes, I did the annual door knock appeal in my neighbourhood selling Girl Guide biscuits, but I was also involved in many community service programs such as clearing weeds from playgrounds, singing and drama productions at aged care facilities and raising funds for critical remote services like the Royal Flying Doctor.
My entry into volunteering did not end there. The Carmelite nuns and Marist brothers who educated me at St Joseph’s College, Broken Hill ensured that each semester we all had a passion project to deliver. Projects ranged from reading to the elderly, producing a youth program for local ABC radio to raising funds for the hospice attached to my school, which provided accommodation for remote students during semester.
As a school student, I enjoyed the comradery that these programs provided and saw it to miss formal classes while learning new skills and doing something independent to my older brother. What I didn’t realise was that at the same time that I was enjoying skipping class, I was receiving lessons in leadership, developing my sense of agency and independence, working autonomously to my family and of course, building my confidence.
Volunteering is in my DNA, it is who I am and today I still proudly call myself a volunteer. I have been a mentor for a women’s leadership program run by the Post Graduate School at QUT as part of the MBA program. I also of course, devote many hours to supporting Cystic Fibrosis Queensland in a volunteer capacity, in addition to my CEO responsibilities. Many a time at a community event when I am selling raffle tickets, competing in a physical challenge or setting up marques I will have a supporter ask me, “So love, what do you do at cystic fibrosis?” to which I always answer – support the members.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics stated in its 2006 – 2007 report that the economic value of volunteering was the equivalent of $14.6 billion of unpaid labour to not-for-profit organisations and the real value of volunteering could be anything up to $25.4 billion to the Australian economy. Volunteers, apart from their contribution to the social welfare of a country, may be considered an essential human resource for many organisations.
At Cystic Fibrosis Queensland head office, volunteers undertake all office and reception duties, they prepare and pack our Boredom Buster Bags for our weekly delivery to children in hospital and university students work on our marketing and social media campaigns.
At the Cystic Fibrosis Queensland Bookshop located in Nundah, volunteers unpack and sort donations, stock shelves and of course, undertake customer service duties selling books and cystic fibrosis merchandise. Only two salaried staff work at the shop with up to 20 volunteers rostered throughout the week. Without the support of these people, it would not be viable for us to operate this business which provides a critical revenue stream for our charity.
The volunteers who work at the Cystic Fibrosis Queensland Bookshop range from retirees who are looking for a way to give back to local community to long term unemployed people and recent migrants seeking to develop skills. All are welcome at the Cystic Fibrosis Queensland Bookshop and we are proud of the training and community centre we have created.
Volunteering provides an opportunity to connect with people from outside your immediate family or social circle. To explore, to engage and to learn. Your reward for volunteering may not be financial instead it will be an enrichment of your life that comes from the pure joy of helping others selflessly.