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Social research gives insight into Rena volunteer experience

Social research gives insight into Rena volunteer experience

2 March 2012

Understanding the experiences of volunteers who helped clean up oil following the grounding of Cargo Ship Rena in October 2011 is the subject of a current research project being conducted in collaboration with University of Waikato, Bay of Plenty Polytechnic and Bay of Plenty Regional Council.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council Senior Land Management Officer Pim de Monchy, who was seconded to Maritime NZ as Volunteer Coordinator, said that the aim of the research was to provide insight into the volunteer experience and to assist with future volunteer planning and volunteer response efforts.

“Our Operation Beach Clean volunteers were a really unique bunch, we had a phenomenal response from volunteers and they made an amazing contribution toward the clean-up efforts. We want to document this as much as we can and learn from our volunteers’ experience,” Mr de Monchy said.

Registered Operation Beach Clean volunteers were invited to participate in an online survey about their volunteering experience. The 164 responses to this survey have provided the first insight into the experience of volunteers.

University of Waikato researchers from the School of Psychology and the Social Work Programme said the survey captured the demographics of volunteers and collected a snapshot of what motivated people to volunteer and how they found the experience.

“The most commonly reported reasons for volunteering were that people lived locally and used the beach for recreational purposes; more than eighty per cent of respondents felt they had made an effective contribution to the clean-up effort and would recommend volunteering for Operation Beach Clean to others,” said Dr Rebecca Sargisson.

“Survey results suggest work commitments and the distance from home were the two most significant barriers for volunteers participating in Operation Beach Clean. This information can help organisations better plan volunteering events and invitations to optimise participation,” she said.

Bay of Plenty Polytechnic research manager Dr Heather Hamerton said that survey results also indicated that although many respondents felt angry and shocked about oil washing up on the coast, most reported that their experience of volunteering was positive and satisfying.

“Being able to give back to their community through contributing to the clean-up seems to have helped many people to deal with their anger about the oil spill.”

Detailed interviews and focus group sessions with volunteers are now underway to gain more comprehensive information.

“While the initial survey of 164 people has been very helpful, we must remember this is just a small portion of the 7950 people who registered to volunteer for Operation Beach Clean. Once the additional qualitative research is completed we hope we will have a deeper understanding of the Rena volunteer experience,” Dr Hamerton said.

The research team includes Sonya Hunt, Kelly Smith and Trish Hanlen from the University’s Social Work Programme as well as Dr Sargisson and Dr Hamerton.

The report will be made available at www.boprc.govt.nz.


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