Volunteering or community service is part and parcel of our lives. It takes many shapes and forms, and can include anything from raising funds for a new school library, driving a bus around town for the Sunshine Variety Club to feeding emergency service volunteers during bushfires or adopting a pet from an animal rescue service.
These few examples show how we might give our time, and of course there are many more. The scenarios are diverse and will require different levels of commitment, but a common thread runs through them all. They ignite in us the need to give, help, belong, and give us the warm and fuzzy feeling that we, with others, are working towards a common goal.
Communities are where we live and where we give. The late George Bernard Shaw expressed this succinctly with, “I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.”
Community work can be grouped into four main categories: community and welfare, religious groups, sports and exercise, and children. Work in the community often starts when families have young children who join organisations like Little Athletics, Scouts or Guides. They may take a break for decades and then, with grown children and semi-retirement, may find they have time on their hands once again for the community at large.
In the Sydney Hills region there is a vast network of volunteering and community organisations in which to get involved. They provide the opportunity to use the skills you already have or to learn new ones, and to make friends that last a lifetime.
There is an abundance of Rotary and Lions clubs across the Hills that raise funds for local and international projects. Rotary’s motto is ‘Service above Self’ and Lions Australia’s logo includes the words ‘we serve’. There are active Inner Wheel clubs and the Hills and Hawkesbury both have branches of Soroptimist International. Probus clubs are popular for retired and semi-retired people, and focus on cultural outings and friendship.
The network of Men’s Sheds provides community based support groups where men can chat and use their woodworking and metalworking skills to make items for community and underprivileged groups. The Hornsby Woodworking Men’s Shed Inc also welcomes women. Mates on the Road are motorbike riders who raise awareness of depression and suicide in men and support the Black Dog Institute.
If you don’t want to commit to joining a club there are still many activities in which you can be involved. You could help out in Vinnies, door knock for the Salvation Army, help a child with English to improve their reading and writing skills, provide a friendly face to an older person living alone, or deliver Meals on Wheels.
Youth are well catered for as well. Many organisations have branches specifically for this age group — Rotary’s ROTARACT and Lions’ Leos are for people aged 18 to 30. If you have read this and still don’t really know where to start you can head to websites like Volunteering Australia, Australian Volunteers, or Do Something Near You.
Being involved in community work of any type is a two-way street. Our efforts may be helping our community and improving people’s lives. But it is nothing compared to the feeling that we, as givers, get back — a sense of achievement, of belonging to a community, and of being needed.

One-third of Australians volunteer

In 2010 6.1 million people (36%) of the Australian population aged 18 and over participated in voluntary work. (Source: www.volunteering.nsw.gov.au/volunteers/benefits-of-volunteering).
Links to Volunteer Organisations:
Australian Volunteers: http://www.australianvolunteers.com/
Volunteering Australia: www.volunteeringaustralia.org
Do Something Near You: www.dosomethingnearyou.com.au