Last Sunday I accepted a Community Service Award as part of the Rotary Peace Day celebrations. David and Milenna Dunn from the South Wagga branch of Rotary, nominated me. David and Milenna personify what it is to be generous and kind and peace-living.
I, like everyone who also received an award on this day, was humbled to be part of such a special occasion. People who have community service in their DNA do not tend to see what they do as special, just necessary and compelling.
It felt strange to be rewarded for what essentially comes down to being a decent human, for creating space for people to be their authentic selves, giving agency to ideas and thoughts.
I recognise and support Rotary’s alteration to its peace credo from “freedom of expression and cultural diversity” to “rejoice in the diversity of every person in an inclusive community where everyone is valued and belongs”. To me, it demonstrates how even the oldest of institutions can change in response to community needs.
It is humbling to receive an award from a group such as Rotary, whose members – in the words of the Dr Raymond King OAM – “live and breath peace, not as a concept or a project but as the way they live their lives.” Peace is inherent in the way I aspire to live as an inward and outward expression of love and kindness.
Rotary is an extraordinary institution that embodies its peace credo and I can only hope that the young people who made presentations as part of peace day, support the organisation into the future. Rotary, like many of our NFPs who rely on volunteers, has an ageing demographic and diminishing membership.
How can we, as a community, value community service, not through acknowledgement, but by turning up, hands on deck, hearts and minds in the throw?
I have been working with communities across NSW who share the challenge of attracting and retaining volunteers. Has our time been diminished so much that service to the community is at the bottom of our bucket list?
We know there is research behind the benefits and the joys of giving. Volunteering provides a sense of meaning and satisfaction, as well as social interaction in addition to or instead of the social interaction that often occurs in paid work. Volunteering contributes significantly to the economy. Yet volunteer numbers are in decline.
The reasons given by would-be volunteers as to why they don’t volunteer are universal across Australia: time poor, family and work commitments, lack of motivation and knowledge, the culture of existing organisations (more BB than Gen X & Y), don’t care!
The Peace Awards took a lot of resources to be delivered seamlessly, everything from inviting the right people to ensuring there was shade and cold water. Like most efforts when it comes to volunteering you don’t see all that goes on behind the scenes, the motor of the machine before and after events. How do we get people to understand the value of what can be achieved through volunteering?
With every problem, there is a solution and we have found a few that work. It starts with accepting and understanding the pain points of potential volunteers and diminishing them but it is also about understanding the motivations and aspirations of potential volunteers. Are members looking for a fantastic career, a great lifestyle, a happy family, a successful business, a healthy planet, world peace or something entirely different? How can we match their needs with what we can offer as NFPs?
How do we effectively communicate to people the value they would get from participating in our NFPs? How do we get people to understand that striving for peace is a worthwhile endeavour and that helping others achieve peace is world-changing and cannot be dismissed?
Thank you Rotary for shining a light on peace. And thank you to all of the volunteers who give generously and humbly. Our community is indebted to you all and I hope together we inspire a new generation of volunteers.
Rotary Community Peace Credo: respect for the life and dignity of every person without discrimination or prejudice; rejection of violence in all of its forms and towards all people; resolution of conflict among people within local and global communities; reconciliation of differences and the pursuit of harmony; rejoice in the diversity of every person in an inclusive community where everyone is valued and belongs.
That is the world I want to live in and I will support Rotary in this aspiration.