Peeni Henare: Recognising our volunteers this Volunteer Week

Opinion 21/06/2019

By Peeni Henare, Labour MP, Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector.

Aotearoa, we need to recognise and appreciate our volunteers more.

Growing up, I never viewed volunteering as an inconvenient or burdensome task. In fact, I did not think about it much at all. It was something that we did as a whānau. We were active in our community, helping out at the rugby club and the marae.

For me it was a way of life, and although the sector continues to be strong, it is now under threat.

The sector needs all of our support to ensure its resilience.

Kiwis are among the most generous people in the world when it comes to volunteering and helping out in our communities, and I consider my own personal experience likely corresponds to the experiences of many New Zealanders. Our readiness to help out as and when required, without any expectation of reward, is part of what makes this country a great place to live.

However, I also note the latent danger that lies within my experience. The fact that so many of us are ready and willing to volunteer our time without a second-thought creates the risk that we fail to appropriately acknowledge and applaud the efforts of those who give their time, for free, to make this country a better place. We should not allow a 'she’ll be right' thinking to prevail towards volunteering.

Everyone willing to volunteer their time for a greater social purpose is valuable.

Every volunteer should be acknowledged as such.

The impact of volunteers to New Zealand society and the economy cannot be understated. About 1.2 million New Zealanders contribute their own time and skills to support businesses and communities each year. This, often underappreciated, workforce makes fundamentally important contributions to the wellbeing of our country.

If we do not celebrate the hard work of volunteers, we may lose them.

National Volunteer Week offers a timely and valuable opportunity to acknowledge the tireless work of our volunteers. This year’s theme is “Whiria te tangata – weaving the people together”, promoting Mahi Aroha and social action. I personally want to thank all volunteers in the sector many of whom I’ve seen as I’ve travelled around the country.

This Government prioritises the wellbeing of New Zealanders by ensuring that everyone who can, is earning, learning, caring, or volunteering.

As the Minister responsible for the Community and Voluntary Sector, I am committed to supporting the sector through funding and actions aimed at assisting volunteer organisations and communities with their work.

In this shifting context, I encourage everyone to stop and consider the part volunteering or volunteers have played in your life.

Take a moment to show your appreciation.

Naku te rourou nau te rouou ka ora ai te iwi.

With your basket and my basket the people will thrive.

Peeni Henare is a Labour MP and Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector.