A life-long affinity with Scouting has seen Donna welcome a third generation into the popular youth organisation. This is why she volunteers…
A desire and willingness to help others has long been on Donna’s radar. She initially volunteered as Kea and Cub leader with her father as a teen, and continued volunteering into her late 20s.
Donna, a Mercer employee, returned to Scouting when her son Callum, now 11, became a Kea at age six. She is a Cub leader with the Eastern Bays Sea Scout Group and says volunteering enhances her career skills, helping with goal setting, planning and confidence.
“Volunteering has helped me to have empathy for our clients, working with people and children from different backgrounds and ethnic groups. As a Cub leader you need to be organised, have a plan, and practice the skills and activities you will be sharing with the pack, all skills that help with work life,” Donna says. “There are also leadership courses and regular events where you gain hands-on experience in running group activities.”
Seeing the kids mastering a skill and challenging themselves fuels her passion, she says. “It’s great seeing them get more confident. I feel like I’m giving back to an organisation which gave me so much growing up.
“Scouts gave me a passion for the outdoors; it taught me to be confident speaking in front of groups and to always be open to trying new activities.”
Scouting in New Zealand has about 16,000 people involved in Keas, Cubs, Scouts, Venturers and Rovers. Each week Donna meets with fellow leaders to plan programs to help her Cubs develop skills such as teamwork, leadership, initiative and self-motivation.
“I still get stopped in the street 20 years later by adults who remember me from Cubs. I learn from the kids, too, and it’s really interesting seeing how kids at Cubs now are different from the Cubs I worked with 30 years ago.
“I still get a kick out of seeing the trees I helped plant on Somes Island here in the Wellington Harbour as part of a community project for Scouts 30 years ago. We lead very busy lives and it feels good to do something for other people and our surroundings.”
Without question, Donna says on encouraging others to volunteer: “Volunteering is a way of connecting in a very real way with people, the community and your local environment. It can challenge you in ways you never thought possible, help increase your skills, meet some new people and have some fun.”
NEW Zealand is a nation of volunteers, with an estimated 1.2 million people volunteering 157 million hours annually.
The most common age group volunteering is 30-39, then 40-49; and women are more likely to volunteer than men, Statistics NZ reports. Volunteering culture and recreation are the most popular sectors, followed by religion and social services, says Volunteering New Zealand CEO Scott Miller.
“People volunteer for various reasons, but for perhaps three general reasons: social, value and employability reasons,” Scott says. “At the end of the day, we are adamant that there is a place for everyone to volunteer. Volunteer centres are excellent places to meet and discuss personal interests or aspirations for volunteering.”
Scott says studies regularly find that volunteers “on average, are happier, more socially connected, active and have lower blood pressure”. “One American study pointed to a marked reduction in mortality in older volunteers compared to non-volunteers,” he says.
Volunteering is important to building stronger and resilient communities; and it was beneficial for employers to build volunteer programs with their staff, the CEO says.
“Think about the Canterbury earthquakes, volunteering was taking place spontaneously in neighbourhoods and through organisations like the Red Cross much quicker and with greater effect than government-led responses.
“Volunteering means people get to know each other, and develop greater connections, which are the roots of strong communities.”