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Volunteering NZ Newsletter - December 2007

December issue of VNZ Update, The newsletter of Volunteering New Zealand

Census information helps provides more detail about New Zealand's volunteers

People in the 60–64 age group were the most likely to be involved in voluntary work for an organisation, group or marae in the four weeks preceding census night. This was one of the interesting pieces of information included in Quick Stats about Unpaid Work released by Statistics NZ on 5 December international Volunteer Day.

Nineteen percent of those aged 60–64 years undertook other voluntary work. Rates were also high for those aged 40– 49 years and 65 years and over, with participation rates of 18 percent for these age groups.

The analysis of the census data found that people who identified as Māori and people who identified as New Zealander were most likely to undertake this type of voluntary activity. Nineteen percent of those who identified as Māori and 20 percent of those who identified as New Zealander undertook other voluntary work. This compares with 15 percent of the total population overall.

The full report of this newly released information can be found at this website http://www.stats.govt.nz/

Successful Parliamentary Breakfast first of many events on International Volunteer Day

Building Bridges was the theme in a thoughtful and provocative address given by Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General and CEO of Civicus, at the Parliamentary Breakfast which began International Volunteer Day in New Zealand (and the world).

He spoke about:

* Building a bridge to span the gap between social activism and volunteering;

* Building a bridge between excellent policy statements and the activities that the voluntary sector are working on day by day; and

* Building a bridge to reduce the ever-increasing gap between rich and poor.

He urged policymakers to use the experiences of the voluntary and community sector when writing their policies. In his home country, South Africa, the domestic violence law was almost entirely written by organisations working in that field because it was recognised that they were the true experts on what needed to happen to change.

The theme of building bridges between volunteering and activism are discussed in depth an article written by Kumi Naidoo entitled Closing the gap between volunteering and social activism, which is featured below.

The breakfast was one of many successful events to take place throughout New Zealand. The reports and requests for posters and balloons received by Volunteering NZ indicate that many more organisations had a special event on the day. They took many forms - special lunches or morning teas, the presentation of recognition certificates, awards, outdoor activities involving volunteers or demonstrating the activities they are involved in and so on. Around 650 organisations from all parts of the country were sent supplies of the posters and balloons.

As well as the Parliamentary Breakfast, Volunteering NZ joined in and supported other events in Wellington. Executive Director Tim Burns had the task for organising the filling of 250 balloons which were launched in a event in Wellington's Civic Square and hosted by Wellington's Mayor, Kerry Prendergast. Later she presented awards to volunteers from various Council projects and services.

Inland Revenue Paper on Payroll Giving released for discussion

The Government has released a discussion document on the idea of introducing a voluntary payroll giving scheme to make it easier for people to donate money to charitable organisations. Employees would choose their charity, decide how much they want to donate each payday, and ask their employers to make the deduction from their pay. They would receive tax relief for their donations at each payday, rather than have to wait to claim a rebate at the end of the year. Employers would forward the donation to charitable organisations or intermediaries.

The discussion document can be found at this link "Payroll giving: providing a real-time benefit for charitable giving" and submissions need to be made by Friday 25 January.

Volunteers Bring Christmas Cheer

Auckland City Mission staff and volunteers have been flat out making sure everything is ready for New Zealand's Biggest Christmas Dinner in the Auckland Town Hall on Christmas Day.

The Mission's Christmas Dinner has become an iconic event in Auckland, symbolising giving, caring and community. Around 1500 people will sit down together to enjoy a traditional dinner of turkey with tarragon and cranberry gravy, ham with pineapple and mustard glaze, roast vegetables and steamed green beans, followed by a dessert of trifle and fruit salad. The Dinner finishes with each guest receiving a Christmas present from Santa and a slice of Christmas cake.

"This is a very special event, bringing together Aucklanders who cannot afford Christmas Dinner, those who would otherwise spend the day alone, and new migrants who may be celebrating Christmas for the first time," says Auckland City Missioner Diane Robertson. "Everyone has a great time, whether they're guests or volunteers."

In Wellington, bikers teamed up with the Salvation Army to brighten Christmas for needy children. The Wellington Harley Owners Group held their second annual Toy Run on 2 December. An estimated 400 bikers, each carrying a toy, rode en masse from Paremata to Queens Wharf in Wellington. On hand to meet them was Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast and a Salvation Army band.

The hundreds of toys donated by the bikers are being supplemented by toys left by the public at The Warehouse stores and New World supermarkets in the Wellington region. The toys, along with profits from biker registrations, will be passed to the Salvation Army for distribution to needy children and families in the Wellington region this Christmas.

Volunteers will be involved in bringing Christmas cheer in these and other ways in many other parts of New Zealand this Christmas.

Sporting Volunteers Acknowledged

Rugby's Volunteer of the Year The New Zealand Rugby Volunteer of the Year award, which honours the many volunteers who work in community rugby, was won by Robbie Ball from Northland's Kaeo Rugby Club. A builder by trade, Mr Ball was instrumental in rebuilding the club's facilities following devastating floods in the Northland region this year. His efforts were recognised earlier this year when he was named Administrator of the Year at the Far North Sports Awards.

"I had the need, the inclination and the will." This attitude earned Pam Frederickson the national title of volunteer of the year at the Badminton New Zealand awards. "I'll give time to anybody who wants to keep trying," she said.

Three years ago Frederickson started a training academy in New Plymouth for junior badminton players. "When we started we were very much the new kids on the block," she said. "But now we are getting some successes." Among those is the invitation of four academy players to attend a selection camp for the Central Region development squad in February.

Awards for Bay of Plenty Environmental Heroes

A Kawerau reserve volunteer, a kiwi protection community group and a school programme on the Rotorua Lakes are among this year's winners of the Environment Bay of Plenty Environmental Awards. The awards ceremony recognised people, community groups, educational programmes and businesses for their contribution to the Bay of Plenty environment.

John Brierley, of Kawerau, scooped the individual award for his ongoing contribution to the Monika Lanham Reserve. Top community group was the Otanewainuku Kiwi Trust which this year released four North Island brown kiwi and plan to create a kiwi crèche.

A programme on the Rotorua Lakes clean up led to Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Rotoiti winning the educational organisation category. Fulton Hogan received the business award for its sustainable practices while working on stage one of the Harbour Link Project.

Trustpower Community Award winners - Westport Golf Club takes Buller District title

The Westport Golf Club has won the Supreme Award at the TrustPower Buller District Community Awards. The club had been very concerned at the declining player numbers and has adopted a far more community approach to give the public the opportunity to play golf. Hundreds of volunteer hours had gone into maintaining and improving the course and facilities. A very dedicated group of volunteers continually cut firewood to sell with proceeds assisting the development of the course.

The category finalists were

* Heritage and Environment: Northern Buller Museum

* Health and Well Being: Westport Townwatch

* Arts and Culture: Westport Woolcrafters

* Sport and Leisure: Westport Golf Club

* Educational and Child/Youth Development: Potikohua Trust

FEATURE ARTICLE: Closing the gap between volunteering and social activism

by Kumi Naidoo Secretary General of CIVICUS

What is the relationship of volunteers and volunteering to social activism? Rieky Stuart, a CIVICUS board member, raised this question at the 2007 International Forum on Volunteer Cooperation (IVCO), which I also attended as a speaker. Surely, not all activism can be considered volunteering.

Nevertheless, I think it is critical for our collective work to strengthen citizen participation that we understand, more precisely, how volunteers currently contribute to social activism and the potential to realise even greater volunteer contributions to social change. And while popular perception tends to associate social activism with young people taking on the establishment, through this column CIVICUS would also like to pay tribute to one of the major constituencies of volunteers today: the growing number of older men and women across the world.

CIVICUS, historically concerned with building bridges and fostering greater unity of civil society organisations, has noted an apparent division on the ground between volunteering and social activism. Considering the great challenges that must be overcome to achieve and ultimately surpass the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015, the need to reconsider the relationship between the so-called volunteering and activism communities is of particular urgency.

Recognising this, CIVICUS recently renewed an agreement with the International Association for Volunteer Effort (IAVE) and the United Nations Volunteer Programme (UNV) to jointly advance awareness of the value of volunteers and volunteer action, particularly for development. In doing so CIVICUS hopes to foster a broad-based dialogue throughout civil society on the similarities and synergies between volunteering and activism. Our work, together with UNV and IAVE, currently includes a planned publication exploring these issues of volunteer management and outreach to volunteer focused and volunteer involving organisations.

Before launching into a discussion about volunteering, it is essential to acknowledge that volunteering is understood differently by different people. Its specific meaning and expression is linked to the particular social, political, economic and historical context. Thus, what might be considered volunteering in one country may not be considered volunteering in another. The debate about what constitutes volunteering is ongoing, and typically revolves around issues of remuneration, the level of commitment, the nature of the activity, i.e., a formal or informal and, lastly, on free will.

The UNV 's definition reads, "Volunteering is action freely taken which benefits the community and society, as well as the volunteer, and which is not driven by financial considerations." In my view, this definition is intentionally broad and as such cannot account for the various cultural nuances. Still, it succeeds in capturing the key characteristics of volunteering which resonate across cultures and thus, I would argue, it is a helpful common starting point for a discussion.

In addition to being a contested term, the word volunteering can conjure up negative connotations for some in civil society, particularly those in activist quarters. Instead of addressing the root causes of social problems, volunteering is sometimes seen as humanitarian action which alleviates the daily suffering of the poor and marginalised by providing direct services, but falls short of producing real change. Activism on the other hand is associated with advocacy, campaigning and social disobedience undertaken with the explicit aim of systemic social, economic and political change.

This distinction between volunteering and activism, from my perspective, is a false and unhelpful dichotomy, which has contributed to a divide within civil society between the so-called volunteering and activist communities. It is increasingly being recognised that a key question facing civil society is how to foster greater respect and dialogue between these two worlds so that they might find new ways of engagement around shared goals of development and justice. This, I think, is critical if we are to make real progress towards ending poverty and inequality.

The volunteering paradigm, in which individuals from rich countries give to those in poor countries, has also been criticised for positioning people and communities as disempowered charity cases instead of actors who have a role to play in solving their own problems and who also have information and knowledge to impart. More and more, the volunteering sector is moving away from this model to one of partnership and mutual learning, for example through South-North and South-South exchanges. While it is essential to continue this trend, it is also important to acknowledge that the volunteering landscape is much more diverse than this particular image suggests.

The sometimes unfavourable perceptions of volunteering and the apparent schism within civil society point to the need to highlight the diversity of volunteer action undertaken around the world. Throughout the years, volunteers have given their time and energy and even risked their lives as leaders and participants in social movements such as the global women's movement, the struggle for civil rights in the United States and against apartheid in South Africa. But the relationship between volunteering and social activism goes beyond simply pointing out that many individuals engaged in social activism are doing so on a volunteer basis.

Volunteers have played a tremendous role in raising public awareness of human rights violations against the poor as well as the actions of courageous individuals advocating for greater democracy in their countries. Just this past week, as the violence against the peaceful Burmese Buddhist monks and protesters unfolded, Amnesty International reached out to its extensive network of volunteer activists to speak out against the state-led violence. Sometimes the awareness building is not an explicit goal but rather the unplanned result of volunteer work. For example, 'Techo para Chile,' a Chilean non-governmental organisation, has been so successful in their volunteer efforts to provide adequate housing for the extreme poor and has inspired so much support from the Chilean public that the government is now under substantial public pressure to achieve its goal of eliminating campamentos, or slums, by 2010.

Volunteers also have an important function to play in holding governments accountable for their promises, such as meeting the MDGs by 2015. The 2003 Philippines MDG Report indicated that universal education is attainable by 2015 but only if the necessary resources are allocated. In a project developed to combat corruption at the Philippine Department of Education, existing volunteer networks, such as the Girl and Boy Scouts of the Philippines and the Alliance of Concerned Volunteer Educators, were successfully leveraged to monitor government procurement of textbooks and ensure the timely delivery of these textbooks to schools across the Philippines . Indeed, much ground work in MDG related activism and service delivery is already being realised by volunteers.

Last year, as part of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) initiative, millions of individuals volunteered their time on 17 October to send the message that endemic poverty and inequality in their communities and around the world is unacceptable. Mobilisations for this year's Stand Up And Speak Out Against Poverty and Inequality campaign and for the MDGs on 16-17 October are currently being planned in close to 100 countries. To see how you can join an existing event or organise a simple event yourself, you can visit www.standupagainstpoverty.org.

It is fitting that volunteers are involved in campaigns calling for policy change, such as Stand Up and Speak Out, or the well known and successful campaign to ban landmines, given their intimate knowledge and oftentimes personal experience of poverty, discrimination and violence. A research study in South Africa showed that, in fact, poor people were more likely to report volunteering than non-poor respondents. This underscores the need for volunteers to be engaged even more systematically as reservoirs of information for policy activism.

Volunteering is a powerful human act, which gives expression to enduring human values of compassion and reciprocity. It can also be a useful strategy for combating social exclusion. If approached correctly, volunteering can help to build greater cohesion across gender, ethnic, religious, economic, health and age divides. The disempowered, whether disabled, youth, seniors or women, can gain skills and knowledge and a new sense of worth, while contributing to broader change and cohesiveness in their communities. One example is the Retired and Senior Volunteer Programme (RSVP), which has created a resource pack focused on fostering action to protect and preserve our environment, through intergenerational activities with children ages 7-11.

In this column I have attempted to start a discussion about the relationship between volunteers and volunteering to social activism by highlighting some of ways in which the two overlap and are mutually reinforcing. To strengthen CIVICUS' work in this area, I would invite you to send your perspectives and experiences to Karena Cronin, who is leading our work on collecting stories, perspectives and current thinking on volunteering for a joint publication with UNV , IAVE and CIVICUS.

In conclusion, I want to say that as we seek to foster a more inclusive society globally, volunteering offers us a great opportunity. Sometimes people start off serving in a soup kitchen and end up being the most eloquent policy advocates around issues of hunger and poverty. In my observations, both in Africa and globally, I have been extremely moved by the energy, skill and motivation of older men and women. In the life experiences of older people there are several stories of those who have engaged in volunteering and contributed to social change. It is indeed tragic that humanity often deprives itself of the energy and expertise of older men and women. In reflecting on these questions on the International Day of Older Persons, it is worth remembering that most readers of this article will hopefully one day be older persons. It is in our self interest as well that we think about a society where older people are treated as reservoirs of wisdom, knowledge and experience that can help us advance the cause of justice; and advancing that cause means bridging the many unhelpful divides that keep us apart - including the false dichotomy between social activism and volunteering.

Education/Professional Development

Martin J Cowling to present Volunteer Management Workshops in New Zealand: The workshops will be presented in six centres during March beginning in Auckland on 11 March. The topics covered will include 21st Century Volunteering: Beyond the Stereotypes; Volunteer Management, Beyond the Tricky Edges; and Volunteer Management: Key to Motivation and Sabotage.

The full schedule of the centres and dates are below. Details on topics, venue, times and registration costs can be obtained from each host volunteer centre through its contact email address.

* Auckland - Tuesday 11 March - hosted by Volunteering Auckland

* Christchurch - Thursday 13 March - hosted by Volunteering Canterbury

* Wellington - Friday 14 March - hosted by Volunteer Wellington

* Nelson - Monday 17 March and Greymouth - Wednesday 18 March - hosted by Volunteer Nelson

* Dunedin - Wednesday 26 March - hosted by Volunteering Otago

Martin J Cowling is one of Australia's leading consultants on not for profit and volunteer management. He has worked with commercial and not for profit organizations for over twenty years. Currently CEO of People First -Total Solutions, Martin works regularly with individuals and organizations in the US, UK and Australia on areas connected with not for profit management, organisational culture, staff motivation, effective volunteer management, constructive personal development and financial disadvantage.

His presentations are informative, thought provoking and beneficial and he is regarded as an entertaining, practical and helpful speaker. He has published a number of articles in journals nationally and internationally and is currently co authoring a text on volunteer management.

Volunteer Management Education Books for Sale

Volunteering NZ has for sale copies of four books written by Linda Graff on developing policies and risk management for volunteering programmes. The titles and prices are:

* Best of All - Quick reference Guide to Best Practice $46.00

* Better Safe - Risk Management for Volunteer Programmes $46.00

* Beyond Police Checks - Screening Guidebook $46.00

* By Definition - Policies for Volunteer Programmes $36.00

We also have copies of Mary Woods' book

* Volunteers, A guide for Volunteers an their Organisations $25.00

All the prices are GST inclusive.

Seasons Greetings from Volunteering New Zealand

We send to all our readers our very best wishes for Christmas and the coming year. Volunteering NZ's office will be closed from Monday 24 December until Monday 7 January.


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