Volunteering festival coming to the Bay

Volunteering BOP general manager Helen Stewart. Image: Supplied.

A new festival celebrating community volunteers will be held at the Historic Village on Saturday, November 9.

The festival, Volfest, is being organised by Volunteering BOP to showcase the opportunities that exist in the volunteer sector.

Volunteering BOP general manager Helen Stewart says the free event will teach people different ways they can give back, learn new skills and connect with organisations they may not have thought about volunteering with before.

“Volunteering comes in many different forms whether it’s organisations like Youth Search & Rescue, Blue Light education programmes, emergency services like Coastguard and St John, environmental groups, disability groups, sports groups or working with animals like Assistance Dogs. The options are endless,” Helen says.

“The plan is to build on the festival each year so it becomes a significant event. We’ll have lots of music, opportunities to upskill and entertainment so people are welcome to get in touch if they’d like to be involved.”

Volunteering NOP support and facilitate volunteering around the region, and has received a multi-year grant from BayTrust of $105,000 for the next three years. The money will be used to cover operational expenses, including the inaugural Volfest, establishing new Volunteering BOP satellite centres, as well as a website and database upgrade.

Helen says she and her team are delighted.

“It’s always lovely to have the certainty of multi-year funding and we’ve found BayTrust really great to work with. We wouldn’t survive without our funders and their enthusiasm for what we do.”

She says the nature of volunteering has changed in the last decade, due to people becoming time poor.

According to Helen, the art of ‘micro-volunteering’ is now common with people looking to contribute their skills to short-term or one-off projects. Another growing trend is corporate volunteering, and Volunteering BOP is looking to develop an app to connect people who wish to volunteer, with organisations who need the help.

Helen says volunteering brings joy to people, and helps them feel less isolated, as well as boosting self-confidence and learning new skills.

“There are more and more people wanting to give back. People just want to get together to make a difference in their community, whether it is putting in children’s swings in a playground, building a bridge, planting an area on an island or raising money,” says Helen.

“People tend to have a great time and feel good, whatever they’re doing.”

Bay Trust CEO Alistair Rhodes says Government figures show 1.2 million New Zealanders volunteer in some capacity, which is the highest per capita rate anywhere in the world.

“Our community literally wouldn’t function without volunteers so the work Volunteering Bay of Plenty does to help support and strengthen our local network is invaluable. We love the idea of Volfest and celebrating the role that volunteers play in all our lives,” Alistair says.

“Volunteering is part of our Kiwi psyche and this multi-year grant will help ensure that tradition continues and the Bay of Plenty is the greatest place to be.”

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