Why volunteer? Creating community in a disconnected world.

Written by Cate Archibald.

From picking up and dropping off a load of shopping, to simply going for a stroll and a chat; community volunteers help in so many ways. CCNB has over 180 volunteers in the community providing everyday assistance to people with disabilities, the elderly and those going through mental health struggles. 

Most importantly, in a world ravaged by a global pandemic in which we are more lonely and isolated from one another than ever before, our volunteers provide those small gestures and moments that generate something invaluable: human connection. 

Creating connection in a modern world

According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, one in four Australian households are lone-person households, and the percentage of these households has increased by 300% since World War Two. 

This rise in the number of people living alone wouldn’t be so worrying if communities were as tight knit as they were decades agot. If one person was doing it tough, then their neighbours, friends and colleagues got around them and supported them. 

But these days, we all live such busy lives that often we lack those support communities that we used to take for granted. It’s easy for individuals to fall through the cracks as they struggle and become isolated. For the disabled and the elderly, this problem is even more pronounced. 

Living alone and disconnecting from community are both risk factors for developing loneliness. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare notes is linked to a range of physical and mental health issues. 

CCNB’s volunteer programme helps address this growing loneliness epidemic by connecting isolated individuals with a volunteer who provides that social connection and everyday assistance that our communities once did. 

For our clients, this may mean a weekly conversation or ready-made meals dropped at their doors. And the positive impact isn’t one-sided; our volunteers often become close friends with clients and report feeling immense fulfilment being able to help someone in our community. 

At the end of the day, it all comes down to creating connections between people- so that we can support those who need help and make their lives just a little better. 

Building a network of support

Part of the work involves connecting with other organisations to provide more comprehensive support to those who need it. This may be by receiving referrals from other organisations or linking those who need help with other services.

In the past, we’ve received referrals from Bridge Housing, Mission Australia, NSW Health, psychologists, psychiatrists, GPs, retirement villages and cancer clinics. 

We’ve also connected our clients with support services that can help in other ways, such as Onemeal – a charity that delivers cooked meals to those in need. While a cooked meal may seem like something small, these little things can mean the world to people who are doing it tough (especially right now). 

These support networks eventually emulate a community – stopping people from falling through the cracks and supporting them while they deal with a tough time or an ongoing disability or health issue. 

The COVID opportunity

Before COVID-19 one in four Australian adults were lonely, according to The Australian Loneliness Report. Before the pandemic, the struggles of those in our communities suffering from social isolation and feelings of loneliness weren’t as visible. But with repeated lockdowns and social distancing measures, more attention has been drawn to the trials of those who are doing it tough, in turn inspiring others to help out. 

While COVID presents a huge challenge for volunteers, it’s also an opportunity to create a more supportive community and better recognise the troubles of those around us. It’s an opportunity to go back to the old-school basics and help out however we can. 

Many of our volunteers have gone above and beyond during this time – calling our clients weekly, going for socially distanced and masked walks when safe, and checking in however they can. 

These little things make a big difference and can help give hope at a time when lockdowns seem to be going on forever.

Volunteering with CCNB

If you’re looking for a volunteering program that will allow you to provide support to and connect with others in your community, CCNB has lots of opportunities. We can work around your schedule, and for as little as one hour a week, your support can help local people in your local community. Register your interest today.

If you have any questions please call our CCNB Volunteer Coordinator on 1300 002 262 or email volunteers@ccnb.com.au