According to Volunteering Australia, about 29.5% of Australians over the age of fifteen did some sort of volunteer work in 2019 – that’s nearly 6 million people donating some of their time to causes as wide-ranging as fundraising, community sport, animal welfare, and food services. Volunteering supports vulnerable people and communities while providing volunteers with a source of joy and fulfilment, and there’s so many ways to get involved.
Earlier this year, Casper Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief Maria was sitting in a café on the Mornington Peninsula in Melbourne when she started chatting with Joan and Lindell, two volunteers who deliver food boxes for local charity Vinnie’s Kitchen. Since 1992, Vinnie’s Kitchen has organised volunteers to prepare and serve free three-course lunches and dinners from the Rosebud Youth Hall, supporting people who are homeless, those struggling with mental illness and addictions, and an increasing number of single mothers and young families who cannot afford rent and food.
Although Maria was no stranger to charity work, Vinnie’s Kitchen struck a chord, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, with its increased uncertainty, business closures, and severing of in-person support networks. Maria started volunteering with Vinnie’s Kitchen, not only serving meals and preparing self-care packages (with items as taken-for-granted as toothbrushes), but also enlisting the Casper team to create the organisation’s first website, providing a new way for vulnerable people and new potential volunteers to find them. It is the effort of volunteers like Maria, continuing the work of founder Kristina Thieking, that has led to Vinnie’s Kitchen serving and delivering almost 150,000 meals to people in need over the last thirty years.
I’m truly grateful and honoured to be part of an incredible community that does so much good and lifts the spirits of so many.
Volunteers are a huge benefit to our communities, but fewer people are finding time in their busy lives to help out. COVID-19 is partly to blame, with 80% of organisations having to temporarily stand down at least some of their volunteers due to restrictions, but volunteering numbers were already on the decline even before the pandemic, as volunteer organisations ranked recruitment as the number one challenge in their work for the past several years. If you’ve got some spare time this holiday season, take this as a sign that you should look into how you can give back to your community, meeting some amazing people and having a whole lot of fun along the way.
There are heaps of ways to get involved in volunteering, whether you’ve got a day to spare or have time for a long-term commitment. Vinnie’s Kitchen partners with Oz Harvest, an Australia-wide organisation redirecting food waste towards people in need, which is always on the look out for people to help pack hampers, fundraise, and cook food. If animals are more your thing, the Lost Dogs Home have roles helping around their shelters and fostering their dogs and cats, while Edgar’s Mission use volunteers to help upkeep their sanctuary for rescued farm animals. The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre is another great organisation helping people seeking a better life in Australia, with volunteering opportunities in their Foodbank and Education Programs, in their admin work, or even in their legal and health services, if you’ve got the professional skills to spare.
To find a way to volunteer that’s just right for you, check out GoVolunteer or the volunteer section of EthicalJobs.com, or have a look around your local area to find the organisations helping your community.
It is said that the greatest poverty we have is the poverty of loneliness, and what better way to help a lonely person than to offer them a hot meal in a warm and friendly environment.
We at Casper Magazine are incredibly proud to partner with Vinnie’s Kitchen and support the amazing work they do. We hope that this article has inspired you to find an organisation that you’ll be proud to work with, too.
If you liked this article, you might be interested to learn about the Strong Grandmothers of the Central Desert Region, groups of Aboriginal women supporting the next generation of vulnerable kids before they get caught up with the police.