Volunteering: at the heart of Wesley Mission
Much has been said about the value of volunteering in our community. If we consider the contribution that is made each day across our lovely country by volunteers—in physical support, working groups, committee engagement, support in schools and a million other ways—we begin to grasp just how significant volunteering actually is in helping us to interpret what it means to be a community.
As an organisation, we could not even begin to explain our work without looking to our sense of being a team that embraces Community Services and Congregational Life, but even more so the volunteer commitment that is very evident in all of this work.
I would like to take the opportunity to honour the dedication of all who volunteer at Wesley Mission. And there are many people who receive our thanks, including 3,197 regular volunteers and 4,362 people who, through corporate volunteering experience, have contributed their time and talents to provide support to people most in need.
Whilst the support given by volunteers is essential across many of the more than 120 different programs Wesley Mission provides, there are a few areas where the contribution of volunteers is particularly critical.
The commitment of 228 registered ‘aunts and uncles’ has provided support to 188 children in the last financial year. These volunteers provide mentoring, care and guidance for children up to 12 years of age facing challenging circumstances at home or who may need a role model or extended network of support.
Each year we host an awards celebration for our volunteers and last year the overall winner of ‘Volunteer of the Year’ was given to Helga Lyon, an excellent example of the impact of this program.
Through mentoring, Helga has helped a single mother recovering from breast cancer treatment by taking the child on outings, allowing the mother to rest and recover. Helga has become a real 'aunt' to both the child and mother. As well as supporting the family through homelessness, Helga has introduced this family to her husband, grown-up children and their children, giving them an extended family they had not experienced before.
Wesley Mission started Lifeline in 1963 and today this work continues to offer hope and comfort to thousands in the community who urgently require a listening ear in a time of crisis. The training required and hours invested to become a Lifeline volunteer are significant and the people who undertake this work wonderfully demonstrate our value of courageous commitment.
Reflecting on the contribution of our volunteers brings to mind Jesus’ teaching in the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30. This is one of those challenging parables which is actually about judgement and how we use the gifts that God has given to us.
It is not part of our Christian living to sit in judgement on others, nor do we have the right to sit back with a sense of complacency. Throughout my life I have observed people who have had to face great challenges in their lives, and yet, they have been able to use their abilities in unstinting service.
The example of these lives should bring us each to ask the question—in our own circumstances—how are we using the gifts we have been given?
In volunteering, we identify that we can make a lasting difference by offering ourselves to an area of work which we see emerge—or others help us to see—and, most important of all, we recognise we can step into the breach.
Thank you to everyone for the generous commitment of time and resources that you make in order to ensure Wesley Mission’s work is such a vibrant presence in our modern Australia.