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The value of reconnecting and what it could look like for you

The value of reconnecting and what it could look like for you

It’s been over a year since our country catapulted into a procession of droughts, bushfires, flooding and the global pandemic. Amidst these disasters, almost six million volunteers dedicated over 600 million hours to help others.

From Monday 17th to Sunday 23rd May 2021, National Volunteer Week will celebrate the significant contribution of Australia’s volunteers and their generous service.

Whilst people impacted by disasters benefit from the support of volunteers, evidence shows that volunteers also benefit from their own service.

First and foremost, volunteering is an excellent vessel for connection. Volunteering connects us to others in our local communities, to better mental well-being or to potential pathways to employment, according to Volunteering Australia.

An article by Beyond Blue points to research that confirms the inextricable link between connectedness and good mental health. Indeed, as social distancing and isolation became our new norm, the value we now place on connectedness has increased.

In 2021, many of us find ourselves considering what we connect or reconnect with as we rebuild our day-to-day lives. There are many ways we can volunteer to gain that sense of connection we crave. Here are just some ideas...

Multi-generational connections

Lisa Sweet is a volunteer guide at the National Gallery of Victoria, and a volunteer mentor at Caring Mums where her roles, based in Melbourne, have returned to ‘in-person’.

Lisa fondly reflects on her time as a mother of young children and feeling “well-supported.” Today, she provides emotional support to new mothers who don’t have the same support network she had.

Lisa not only spends regular one-on-one time with her mentees – new mums, but she says the training that Caring Mums provide offers her regular connection with other ‘Caring Mums’ where they share their mentoring experiences and learn new ways of offering support to their mentees from one another.

Browse volunteer mentor roles

Animal connections

According to a review that examines companion animals and human health (*), simply looking at animals can reduce anxiety in times of stress, and when in the presence of a pet dog, people show reductions in cardiovascular, behavioural and psychological indicators of anxiety.

Jenny Bloch was living alone when she was touched by the story of an abandoned cat named Marley, who was seeking a foster home through Sydney Dogs and Cats Home.

“For many years I had no one to come home to, no kids or pets. When I brought Marley home it was amazing having the companionship again, someone to look after and care for. I looked forward to coming home and being with him,” she says.

Fostering an animal is a great way to feel soothed and connected to another living being that doesn’t require the social skills needed during human interaction. Animal shelters are often looking for caring volunteers to assist with temporarily rehoming neglected animals or pets whose owners are no longer able to take care of them.

Browse volunteer animal foster roles

Nature connections

Nature has provided peace and tranquillity for humans since the dawn of time. Simply being in a natural environment can offer a sense of relief from the day-to-day stressors of urban living, and can provide the ideal settings for fostering and deepening personal connections with others.

Volunteering in a capacity that allows you to spend time in and improve the conditions of the natural world is a win-win situation.

You’ll find opportunities for gardening, tree planting, picking up litter and conserving natural areas near you when you browse volunteer environment and conservation roles.

It’s evident that when we help others and offer our time to a meaningful cause, we also give back to ourselves. This week, we recognise all of the amazing people who volunteered in Australia over the past year and congratulate them for their incredible service to a country in need.

To start a rewarding volunteer journey search here.

(*) Companion animals and human health: Benefits, challenges, and the road ahead