Today is International Volunteer Day. What does that actually mean to those of us who are volunteers under Fire and Emergency NZ or any of the other invaluable first responder or resilience supporting organisations?
It means we should take time to remind people of the things often taken for granted and the responsibilities of community members in acknowledging who responds to their needs. Whether it be extinguishing a garden fire that’s gotten out of control to saving a life after a motor vehicle accident, the point is that everybody has a responsibility to play their part in their safety and resilience. That responsibility begins with a simple acknowledgment and grows into active involvement.
The United Nations 2018 theme for International Volunteering Day quite rightly states that ‘Volunteers build resilient communities’ and recognises ‘volunteers worldwide – with a special focus on local community volunteers who contribute to making their communities more resilient against natural disasters, economic stresses and political shocks.’
Resilience is the absolute crux of what we’re about. The 2014 reform of the Fire Service was prophetic in how it relates to the UN’s message that volunteerism is at the very core of community. It’s why we’re changing as a sector and volunteering is becoming fundamentally important for our very survival.
These are troubling times – we’re seeing unprecedented levels of threats to our homes, livelihoods and way of life from climate change, that places much greater pressures on our volunteer services. As volunteers we’ll need to respond not just to the growing challenges and risks to our own homes and lives but those of our community too – who will become more and more dependent on us.
Volunteering is a mindset that must be instilled in our next generation. I’m extremely conscious of the world my grandchildren are going to inherit. Where changing climate can cause vast wild fires in summers, flash flooding or severe storms.
It is our responsibility as parents, as community members and as human beings to prepare our children for the challenges that lie ahead and the roles that volunteering not just provides but requires of us.
We’re working on developing our national youth cadet scheme to help you all with encouraging the next generation to pick up the mantle. We’ve met with a working group who are providing local opportunities for youths in Buller, Tauranga, Whakatane and the West Coast and are reaching out to others to share their learnings.
Opportunities like these remind us that despite the pressures on volunteerism, despite the growing challenges and responsibilities, there is hope. As long as we maintain those human qualities of resilience, problem solving and caring for each other, we’ll ensure volunteerism endures at the very heart of communities for years to come.
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