THEY are the helping hands behind the scenes who often go unrecognised, but the dedication and commitment of volunteers is helping every community across the nation – especially in rural areas.
As part of this week’s National Volunteer Week Stock Journal is thanking all the rural, regional and agricultural volunteers who put in many hours to help their local communities.
There are almost one million South Australians who volunteer in a formal or informal capacity, contributing about 1.7m volunteer hours each week.
That is the equivalent of 107,400 full-time jobs, and a volunteering effort valued at almost $5 billion annually.
Volunteering SA and NT chief executive officer Evelyn O’Loughlin said volunteering was good for both the giver and receiver.
“Research shows volunteers experience greater feelings of wellbeing and are healthier and happier – even increasing life expectancy,” she said.
“Volunteering connects communities, making them more resilient and cohesive.”
Many rural and remote towns rely on volunteers to run sporting organisations, support groups, school groups and emergency services.
One such organisation is the State Emergency Service, which has 1600 volunteers, and since May 1 last year, has responded to about 5500 requests for assistance from SA communities.
SES chief executive officer Chris Beattie said the selfless men and women regularly gave up their time to respond to floods, storms, search and rescue callouts and a range of other emergencies – often in terrible weather conditions.
Additionally, the SA Country Fire Service has 13,550 volunteer firefighters, operational support members and cadets, who provide a critical service in rural areas, battling dangerous bushfires and attending vehicle accidents on country roads.
Sue heads back to hospital to support patients
SUE Cook feels most comfortable in a medical environment, which is no surprise given her career as a registered nurse.
When she retired and moved to Victor Harbor with her husband Richard, it was only natural to end up volunteering at the South Coast District Hospital.
There are so many organisations that need people to volunteer.SUE COOK
Every Wednesday, Mrs Cook can be found assisting staff and patients in the chemotherapy unit – a place she knows all too well having battled breast cancer.
“I wanted to avoid going back to the hospital because I wanted to try other opportunities, but as a person who has been through chemo, I felt I could sit there, talk and help the patients,” she said.
The Cooks ran a small herd of Angus cattle and crossbred sheep at Red Creek before moving to Victor Harbor to retire.
And at their farm, her nursing skills came in handy when assisting a neighbour to vaccinate newborn lambs.
The Cooks both volunteer with the Steam Ranger and numerous cancer support groups in the district.
“There are so many organisations that need people to volunteer,” Mrs Cook said.