News & Events

Volunteering is the new work

May 22, 2018

Volunteering has become the work many people choose to do after leaving the workforce. At least that’s the experience at OCAV’s villages at St Helena, North Fitzroy, Berwick and Euroa. Many volunteers come from the community, but at least half of the volunteers at OCAV are residents who want to remain active or take the opportunity to make a difference to their community.

Kim D’Angelis, OCAV’s Volunteer Coordinator, said the contribution, large or small, of so many people, helped create a cohesive and inclusive community. It’s something that OCAV will celebrate across the organisation with Volunteer Week morning teas.

“We have many registered volunteers and many residents who do voluntary work, but they don’t see it that way. They see it as giving to their community and helping out. We have one resident who opens and closes the hall door each day at Leith Park.  We have other residents who volunteer a couple of days a week at Liscombe House playing music for the residents. Every hour of voluntary contribution builds community,” Kim said.

OCAV has 180 volunteers ranging in age from 20 years to some in their 90s and all ages in between. Ninety of the 180 volunteers are village residents. Most external volunteers work at Liscombe House, OCAV’s aged care facility at Leith Park. Kim said the varied and expansive diversional therapy program creates many opportunities for volunteers wanting to ‘give something back’ to the community. Liscombe House volunteers help run music afternoons, happy hours, discussion groups, the canteen, a men’s group, social outings, craft activities and much more. There is also a strong staff structure to support volunteers.

While Kim witnesses the benefits of volunteering for residents and volunteers every day, a recent study supported her view that volunteering is good for us.

Executive Style, an online site, published an article in April titled, Volunteering could be the real solution to being a happier person. The article said:
“If there was something you could do that would make you much, much happier, improve your health and it cost you nothing at all, you’d do it, yeah? You’d be stupid not to.
It’s called “volunteering” and it really is a magic happy pill.
A joint study by the London School of Economics and Harvard University, Simple Changes, Big Rewards: A Practical, Easy Guide for Healthy, Happy Living, reveals the odds of feeling “very happy” rose seven per cent among those who volunteer monthly, 12 per cent for those whovolunteer every two to four weeks and leaped to 16 per cent in volunteers who give back every week.”

None of this surprises Kim who works hard to match volunteers with tasks and residents across the four villages. She also sees the unexpected outcomes from volunteering.

“There’s one volunteer, a woman who relocated to Melbourne from interstate and knew no one. After volunteering here a few days a week for several months, she has developed a network of friends and no longer feels as isolated and anonymous as she did. She means a lot to our residents; they value her as a person. Another woman volunteered to be a companion to a resident in our Braeside Park village. They have become good friends and so what began as a formal arrangement has developed into something that means a lot to them both.”

Kim said volunteering works when it is seen as a two-way arrangement. It works well when the volunteers feel respected and when their skills and years of life experience are valued. It’s something Kim works hard to achieve across the four villages. And it must be working; the average time a volunteer stays with OCAV is just over five years.

“I have noticed a shift in recent years in how people perceive retirement. It used to be time when work stopped, but now a lot of people see it as an opportunity to keep working, not for money, but to make a difference to their part of the world,” Kim said. “It makes working with volunteers a great job for me.”

Caption: Kim D’Angelis OCAV’s Volunteer Coordinator

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