Volunteers are essential to so many facets of daily life in New Zealand and right now we need more. Right across our community, volunteers make a hugely positive contribution to society giving their time and skills to help others and the environment. In return, volunteering provides an opportunity to develop and gain skills, and connect with your community.  

Volunteer Central provides services in Palmerston North city, Horowhenua, Manawatū, and Tararua, supporting these communities on four fronts: Connection, Awareness, Recognition, and Community Development.  

We sat down for a chat with Volunteer Central Manager Kate Aplin to find out more about the services they offer and gain a deeper insight into just how volunteering can progress your career. 

What is Volunteer Central? 

Volunteer Central is an organisation that provides people the opportunity to match their passion with a sense of purpose through volunteering, and organisations to manage their business through providing opportunities to volunteer. Volunteer Central has over 100 organisations that we work with to develop volunteering opportunities, and over 1400 volunteers available to fill these roles. 

Why do we need an organisation such as Volunteer Central? 

People go through different experiences through their lifetime where they may have more time on their hands, be between employment, new to the area, or just want to “pay it forward” to do good for the community. Organisations may need support for their business, and/or want to contribute to the community in a positive way. Volunteer Central works across the community with a large variety of organisations to identify, develop, and support volunteering opportunities and then finding the right volunteers to fill the roles. This gives the organisation time to focus on their business. 

What are the benefits of volunteering? 

The benefits of volunteering are many and varied with key themes being a sense of being connected to your community, doing good, and of being valued which all positively contribute to our volunteer’s health, especially mental health.  

Alongside this, volunteering assists in the development of skills and networks, exposure to different work environments, working with structure and boundaries. 

These aspects of volunteering are valuable not only to the volunteer, but also potential employers. Volunteering is great to have on your CV, and the organisations you volunteer for can provide valuable references for your job hunt! 

Do you have any case studies of where volunteering has led to either paid employment or a step up the career ladder? 

We have many examples of where people have entered volunteering to develop skills and/or relationships to support potential future employment. These people range from school leavers to people between employment and people requiring rehabilitation where workplace experience or lack of experience can leave people with low confidence in their abilities and strengths. Finding the right volunteering opportunity to meet the volunteers needs and way forward is important to Volunteer Central and it is extremely rewarding to have a volunteer contact us to say that they have secured paid employment. 

While the agency the volunteer may work with might not be the business they gain paid employment with, the agency has significantly contributed to positive outcomes for the volunteer. 

There are situations where people have wanted to develop administrative skills and have then gone forward to paid administrative roles, people who have experienced healthcare situations who have gone on to undertake training to become registered health providers or secured paid unqualified positions, portfolio holders in local businesses, set up their own business etc. all through volunteering. 

In what areas is there a shortage of volunteers? 

There is always a need for volunteers in our communities – across NZ there are 1.2 million volunteers contributing to the community and to the value of $4 billion dollars per annum to the economy through volunteers. 

Traditionally the perception of volunteering is that it is something to do when you retire which does mean that the age of volunteers is older. Times have changed and now volunteering is seen as a valuable social contribution to the community and economy therefore a wider range of roles are available. 

Organisations are particularly seeking people who are younger and from diverse backgrounds to add wider dimensions to their service. There are multiple opportunities to join governance committees and influence the direction of a service. 

And we always have events occurring across the region that require volunteers for just part of a day – sometimes at short notice so it is great for people that may be available to sign up and wait for the opportunity. 

What is the best way for those interested in volunteering to find out more or connect with volunteering opportunities? 

If you are interested in finding out more, you can contact us online through the links below or come in and see us. Registering as a volunteer takes about 20 minutes and can be done over the phone, through responding to an email once you have contacted Volunteer Central, or face to face at any of our physical locations. 

Follow Volunteer Central on Facebook, check out their website, or contact the team to take the next step in your volunteering journey. 

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