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Building communities through volunteering

Building communities through volunteering

Community Group 43 Below planting native trees at Holdsworth Lodge. Photo DOC

Volunteer Awareness Week (VAW) is New Zealand’s largest celebration of volunteer participation, aimed at showing appreciation for the invaluable contribution volunteers make. This year’s theme is Building communities through volunteering, recognising that the work of volunteers is essential to building resilient communities.

The effort of conservation volunteers is often celebrated by showcasing the achievements made for conservation. However, there is a range of other benefits for the individual volunteers and for the community associated with this effort.

Research suggests that volunteering leads to better health and well being. Those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer. Participating in ecological restoration enhances life satisfaction including personal growth, improving optimism, being part of something profound and creating a sense of belonging to one’s community. In addition, conservation groups tend to promote the social inclusion of people.

The Department Of Conservation would like to thank the volunteers and acknowledge their time that they contribute to projects within the region. A variety of tasks are performed by volunteers – from planting a tree in their back yard to community beach cleanups and animal pest trapping in Reserves.

Department Of Conservation ranger Sandra Burles says “the Wairarapa volunteer programme has a variety of events and projects that locals have initiated, contributed to and are having successful conservation outcomes”.

DOC estimates during 2010-2011, 12 000 individual volunteers contributed over 195,000 hours with an estimated value of $3.6 million. During the same time period there were 508 community groups involved, which DOC estimates contributed 573,000 hours, at an estimated value $ 10.6 million.

The Department of Conservation in Wairarapa has several volunteer projects that individuals or groups could be involved with – check out the DOC website www.doc.govt.nz/volunteer or email Wairarapa@doc.govt.nz

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