The Value of Volunteers

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The Value of Volunteers

This week is National Volunteer Week. Without volunteers from our community working together to oppose overreaching regulation on two occasions, home education would look very different in Victoria. Without volunteers, few groups or excursions would be available. Without volunteers there would be no websites or Facebook pages to help us network and answer our questions.

As home educators we are immersed in the volunteer culture, with so many of us playing our part. Some do so in a visible way, organising excursions, posting regularly in online groups, or as the contact person for a local meet up. Others are in the background, organising subscription discounts or public liability insurance, reaching out to newbies in their area, or representing us on VHEAC.

We each play our part. And as the home education community grows, new volunteers step forward and we all benefit. At the same time there are the experienced volunteers who quietly drop their chosen responsibilities one by one. Some stop because they are no longer home educating; but for others, the sad reality is that they do so because of us.

Whilst most interactions are positive, many volunteers deal with a constant low level of hassle and a dread of the occasional spikes of vitriol that come their way. It’s particularly hard that these spikes are usually not of their own making; they are in response to things which are outside their control – the booking has closed, Covid rears its head, they are trying to fairly apply the rules, or to tread a fine line between two factions.

The low-level hassle seems to happen because people forget that they are volunteers. When someone does their best to be there for you, replying promptly to your post or email, sharing information regularly, turning up week after week to welcome you, it’s easy to forget that they don’t have to.  Volunteers need to put themselves and their families first; sometimes they are busy, tired, overwhelmed, or on holiday, and in any of those scenarios they might be slow to respond, not that smiley, late or even forgetful (like the author of this article who didn’t get around to posting until after Volunteer Week).

We all need to show our support on a regular basis by thanking volunteers, accepting that accommodations often cannot be made, and doing what is asked of us. We can also choose how we react when someone who has repeatedly helped us and others, directly or indirectly, does something we find annoying or don’t agree with. Do we really need to say something or post that angry emoji?

So take time this Volunteer Week to thank someone. Show you value their contribution by your words and actions. Remind yourself that they are parents like you who are doing their best.  Support the volunteers who support you!

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