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Honouring our unsung heroes

Time for volunteers to be recognised

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Honouring our unsung heroes

The Sunshine Coast Volunteers of the Year Awards aim to honour the time, effort and service of volunteers whose work often goes unseen, but without which many organisations would find it impossible to operate.

Whether it’s ourselves, our families or friends, in one way or another we have all been touched by cancer. However, touched is simply a gentle metaphor – the reality is more likely to feel like ‘a punch in the guts’.

When cancer came to my close friend, I travelled from frozen acknowledgment to a defiant desire to obtain the best treatments possible, to being the best possible carer. Nothing was too hard or too much when it came to caring for my beloved friend.

But 18 months in, I felt an overwhelming sadness, and having sadness as a constant companion was sapping my strength at a time when it was needed most. In the depths of despair, I thought of where I could turn to for help. As for thousands of others, Bloomhill Cancer Care came to mind.

I phoned Bloomhill, a person answered and listened to me, counselled me and provided me with solid information. I later found out the person who did all of this for me was a trained volunteer. Truly, it was a godsend. The information empowered me to understand, accept and move forward.

Bloomhill is our local cancer care facility, established by the Sunshine Coast community some 22 years ago, to provide care and support for people of all ages living with cancer. It is a centre of excellence for integrated cancer care, balanced by a profound connection with and understanding of cancer and its effects. In the past eight years, Bloomhill has welcomed 7120 clients at the centre, which includes patients, carers, children and bereaved family and friends. Alongside the qualified nurses, therapists and allied health professionals, the cost of which is subsidised or sponsored by Bloomhill, there are more than 450 volunteers.

Many of those volunteers found the path to Bloomhill through Volunteering Sunshine Coast (VSC).

Bloomhill CEO Christopher John explains how VSC has connected Bloomhill with this support network.

“VSC plays a very important role in filling up the growing number of positions to operate the various programs at Bloomhill. A number of our volunteers have had VSC as their first point of contact or have come across Bloomhill Cancer Care through VSC.”

In 2019-20 Bloomhill volunteers accumulated an astounding 77,133 hours of support (equivalent to 41.5 full-time roles) valued at more than $1.9 million, serving as the lifeblood for Bloomhill’s varied services. This was slightly less than the previous year due to COVID. It’s a remarkable effort and indication of the dedication volunteers have to supporting the clients and the organisation.

VSC CEO Mathew Walker says since 2004,VSC has provided opportunities for approximately 26,000 volunteers, both for direct involvement in its programs (Pathways to Employment and Spontaneous Disaster Volunteers) as well as relief and support to 130-plus member organisations.

He says the reasons people take on a volunteering role vary from those with government obligations to those who wish to upskill, or just contribute.

Mr Walker says volunteering has many benefits. For instance, he has noted how people suffering PTSD have benefited from these roles. “I participate in talks at local hospitals,” he says. “And I hear how volunteering has helped them move forward in many directions.”

He says it is the organisation’s humanitarian ethos that underpins a passion to enhance the community.

“We do this by linking potential volunteers to agencies like Bloomhill Cancer and Sunny Kids.”

VSC volunteer Melanie Hodge is at the frontline of making the connection happen. She has been volunteering with VSC for nine-and-half years. Her job is to interview potential volunteers for positions on behalf of the not-for-profit members. She says her volunteer career started after being unable to find paid employment.

“When that didn’t happen, I decided to volunteer,” she says.

Before COVID, she was doing two days a week; now she is doing one day per week. Ms Hodge says she gains many things from her volunteering position including social contact, meeting new people and especially being able to help others.

“Lots of different people come along,” she explains. “People who have just retired or just moved here; some just might want to meet people.

“Sometimes there are sad stories, and I might just listen for an hour, but we eventually get around to volunteering work.

“I get great satisfaction in matching volunteer’s interests and skills to the right work position and environment. Some people don’t want to do anything similar
to their work life, but just want a complete change, while others do want to use the skills they have,” Ms Hodge says.

SunnyKids general manager Kathleen Hope says: “Volunteers make greatness possible and without their support, many of our programs would be impossible to deliver effectively. Our Village with our volunteers makes a difference.”

This year, after a hiatus of more than a decade, VSC is recognising the value of volunteers with the Sunshine Coast 2021 Volunteers of the Year Awards. An important point is that the award is inclusive of all volunteers.

“It is not limited to Volunteering Sunshine Coast members ,” Mr Walker says.

“Through these awards, we are bringing much-needed awareness to the Sunshine Coast volunteering community. We must continue to recognise these volunteers and also for the not-for-profit organisations allowing these volunteers to give back so much to the local community and more importantly the sustainability of volunteering on the Sunshine Coast.”

The awards are made possible through the sponsorship of the Sunshine Coast Council and the University of Sunshine Coast.

USC Pro Vice-Chancellor (Engagement) Professor Joanne Scott says: “Whether caring for the elderly, fundraising for those in need, protecting our environment or working to keep families safe, Sunshine Coast volunteers make a difference every day. That’s why USC is both proud and pleased to host this event recognising our finest volunteer community contributors.’

Mr Walker says there are currently around 60,000 volunteers in our community. “These extraordinary individuals are the cornerstone of our society and the ones we rely on in times of need, who band together to support and strengthen our local not-for-profit, events, businesses and community sectors.

“The 2021 Volunteers of the Year Awards acknowledge the magnificent contribution of these hard-working and often unsung heroes.”

Volunteers of the Year Nomination

Do you know of a special person who stepped up during 2020 in a volunteering capacity? Is there a volunteer who did something extraordinary, went the extra mile to reach out, made an impact, or drove a notable project or initiative?

Do you know of a volunteer who is the glue that holds an organisation or group together? Was there someone in your organisation that was devoted to making the world a better place?

The Volunteers of the Year Award recognises those who go above and beyond, who are passionate about helping people and making positive change within the community. If you know an exceptional volunteer who is driven by compassion, kindness, empathy and selflessness, let us know by nominating them today.

Nominate someone in your organisation who has made a real difference in the lives of others. Help Volunteering Sunshine Coast honour them the way they have honoured others.

Award nominations are now open, and you can nominate a volunteer online or by contacting  Volunteering Sunshine Coast for more information. Phone 5443 8256 or email admin@volunteeringsc.org.au.

Nominations close April 16, 2021. For more details and categories, go to volunteeringsunshinecoast.com.au.

 

DID YOU KNOW?

Volunteering Sunshine Coast is run by a dedicated team of approximately 79 people, under the direction of the CEO Mathew Walker, and provides the following assistance:

  • Opportunities and support for people making informed choices about volunteering.
  • Assisting people who are seeking paid employment to participate in volunteer work to keep skills updated, renewing skills and building self-esteem through
    the Pathways to Employment Program.
  • In partnership with Sunshine Coast Council, Volunteering Sunshine Coast provides and co-ordinates spontaneous volunteers, assisting those who are experiencing misfortune and distress during a disaster event.
  • Refers volunteers to not-for-profit organisations across all sectors of the community (it has 131 member organisations).
  • Works with government, community and corporate sectors to recognise the value of volunteering.

Volunteering Sunshine Coast is seeking sponsors/partners for the recognition awards. If you are interested in supporting an amazing event email media@volunteeringsc.org.au.

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