The ripple effect of volunteering
The ripple effect of volunteering
22 May 2019
You can’t change the world by yourself, can you? Mother Teresa, who worked among the desperately poor of India for decades, didn’t think so, saying, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.”
This week is National Volunteer Week in Australia (20–26 May), but every single day across Australia, our army of volunteers give up their time to support the work of The Salvation Army.
Rachel Loyola, Salvation Army volunteer resources developer, knows all about the power of the ‘ripple effect’. She is very aware of how the more than 30,000 Aussie Salvo volunteers impact their communities.
“We have literally thousands of Salvo volunteers waking up every day to support those in crisis or experiencing disadvantage,” she said.
“In many cases, our work is only possible because of the contribution of our Salvo volunteers; they make up more than 70 per cent of our workforce.”
That ripple effect of people so willingly donating their time, skills and goodwill reaches deep into the community.
“For many people, volunteering is part of their faith journey and for others they want to find practical ways to make a difference by supporting their local community, feeling connected to a community and using their skills,” she said.
“We have volunteers who respond to national emergencies and disasters; volunteers who support programs by sorting donations, cooking, doing administration, driving, tutoring, mentoring, serving, entering data, accounting – the list goes on.
“Thousands of volunteers join us for the Red Shield and Christmas appeals every year; we have volunteers helping in aged care, volunteer lawyers at Salvos Legal and corporate volunteers who help in many of our centres and programs to bring dream projects to reality.”
The Salvation Army national vision – Wherever there is hardship or injustice, Salvos will live, love and fight, alongside others, to transform Australia one life at a time with the love of Jesus – comes to life with the dedication of its army of volunteers.
“When one person’s life is transformed, this extends to their family, friends, social networks and local communities. In return, the volunteer’s life is also positively impacted,” Rachel said.
She recounts how volunteers at a Salvation Army centre in Sydney understood and responded to the unique needs of a woman who regularly accessed their services.
“She was experiencing homelessness and liked to keep all her belongings on her. She would always come in with a big heavy jacket, even in summer, and our Salvo folk would have to use ice packs to cool her down,” Rachel said.
“One of our volunteers designed a vest for her so she could carry her essentials without the added heat exhaustion. It was even customised with her favourite band – what a demonstration of love and care! Wonderful volunteers like this help us bring dignity and hope to those we journey with.
“At Christmas, I witnessed a grandma emotionally thank a volunteer who had helped her pick toys for her grandchildren. She was grateful for the Salvos’ generosity, but especially for this volunteer who took the time to find out about her grandchildren, their ages and interests.
“It’s the everyday, small things that make a difference as well – such as making a cup of coffee for someone coming to our services for assistance or a smile from a volunteer in a Salvos Stores.”
Rachel believes one reason volunteering has such a huge impact on communities is because of the connections formed when people do something for someone else with no expectation of any reward for themselves.
“When people come to us, they are in crisis or experiencing disadvantage and need help getting back on track. Many times, our volunteers are part of their journey, being a source of positivity,” she said.
“People who have accessed our services and know what it’s like to need assistance have come back to volunteer with us, going on to help others with care and empathy.
“Volunteering is transformational in many ways. It can bring together people who have walked very different paths in life but have the power to bridge differences and heal hurt. When positive experiences and people are compounded and combined, we can create change in our communities.”
Find out about volunteering with Salvos HERE.
This article first appeared in Warcry.