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What if the volunteers strike on Monday?

01 December 2005

What if the volunteers strike on Monday?

New Zealand celebrates International Volunteer Day on Monday, 5 December. If all the volunteers in New Zealand chose to strike in recognition of this important day, the country would grind to a halt.

Who would look after the kids at Playcentre? Would you knock off early to replace the school sports coaches? Leave your grandparents to go hungry if there were no Meals on Wheels deliveries?

What if Monday was the day you needed a St John’s Ambulance worker? What if all the foster parents in New Zealand called it quits for 24 hours? What if lives were lost because volunteers weren’t there?

The value of New Zealand volunteers is often grossly underestimated and COmVOiceS is calling on all New Zealanders to take time on International Volunteer Day to recognise their contribution to society.

“Volunteers deliver essential services across a huge range of sectors. From health to human rights, every New Zealander is affected in some way by the community and voluntary sector,” says Peter Glensor, Co-Chair of the Community Sector Taskforce.

A 2004 report, known as the VAVA (Value Added by Voluntary Agencies) project, looked at 10 of the largest voluntary social service groups and found that the volunteers, managers and board members of these organisations worked the equivalent of all the time worked by paid employees in the dairy industry.

“If every worker in the dairy industry went on strike for a day, the economy would be crippled. So imagine what would happen if every volunteer, not just the workers from these 10 organisations, decided to strike on International Volunteer Day,” says Tim Burns, Executive Director of Volunteering New Zealand.

There are more than 60,000 Tangata Whenua and community and voluntary groups in New Zealand performing essential work that otherwise wouldn’t get done. That includes key health, emergency, sporting, social, environmental, educational, cultural and faith-based services.

“All of these organisations rely on volunteers to maintain crucial standards of professionalism and accountability in their work, while operating on extremely small budgets. They safeguard the human quality of our society and enable people to make important connections with each other across diverse communities and interests,” says Tony Spelman, Co-Chair of the Community Sector Taskforce.

COmVOiceS is calling on all New Zealanders to show their support for volunteers at International Volunteer Day events in their region. To find out more, contact your local Volunteer Centre or Volunteering New Zealand, or visit


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