Giving back to society and helping others in our own communities or around the world is a noble pursuit that’s often high on the to-do lists of people entering retirement. According to one study, more than half of older Australians volunteer in their local communityview disclaimer1.
Volunteering can be incredibly rewarding and is actively encouraged for people entering retirement. The emotional and social benefits guard against some of the challenges people can face leaving the workforce and adjusting to the new, ‘third phase’ of their lives.
As well as bringing a sense of satisfaction and purpose, volunteering is a way to continue to use your valuable knowledge and skills to contribute, meet new people and even travel. Then there’s the good-for-your-health factor – research has shown that those who make volunteering part of their life are happier and healthierview disclaimer2 than those who don’t.
But with so many opportunities for volunteering out there, it’s worth thinking about what’s best for you, taking into account your plans for your retirement and how much time you have to devote. We’ve put together some tips and ideas to help you find the most rewarding volunteering experience for yourself and the community.
You have years of experience behind you and skills that could be put to work as a volunteer. Whether your expertise is in something like nursing, teaching, plumbing or accounting, there are so many projects, at home and abroad, that need assistance and support. Australian Business Volunteersopens new window , for example, helps connect businesses in developing countries in the Pacific and south-east Asia with those experienced in business to provide practical advice and guidance.
With teaching skills you can help refugees and migrants to settle in Australia by teaching Englishopens in new window. Carpentry or plumbing experience could help build homes and villages in overseas communities, providing a closer understanding of a country and its people at the same time. Mentoring young people can be another rewarding way to give others the benefit of your years of professional and life knowledge. You can even do this without leaving home, by connecting with people online through programs run by organisations such as The Smith Familyopens in new window. The peak body for volunteering, Volunteering Australiaopens in new window , can help match your skills to a volunteer role while others such as the Do Something opens in new window initiative zeros in on grass roots, community volunteering.
There are myriad ways you can put concerns about the environment to use in the volunteer universe, including opportunities to be involved with scientific environmental projects aimed at research and educating. With Earthwatch opens in new window , for example, you can become a 'citizen scientist' working alongside professional scientists locally and globally. Closer to home, you can participate in local conservation projects such as rejuvenating wildlife corridors and helping save threatened species or helping clean up rivers and wetlands with groups such as Landcare opens in new window and Conservation Volunteers Australia opens in new window .
If you’d like to go bush and get your hands dirty lending support to our farming communities, there are plenty of volunteering opportunities. From working and learning on organic farms, to rebuilding fences and other structures for families in rural Australia, particularly after natural disasters such as fires, floods and during times of drought. Groups such as Rural Aid Australiaopens in new window , Willing Workers on Organic Farms (WWOOF)opens in new window and BlazeAidopens in new window match rural communities who need help with volunteers interested in helping them.
Yes, a love of food can also offer the chance to volunteer, connect with people and make a difference. Food wasteopens in new window is becoming an increasingly high-profile issue and armies of volunteers are working to address it through organisations such as OzHarvestopens in new window and SecondBiteopens in new window , which rescue food that would have been wasted and put it to use. Alternatively, you could work to protect unique biodiversity, local food traditions and promote the joy of cooking and eating through your local branch of the global Slow Foodopens in new window movement.
If history and heritage are your passion, there are opportunities to get involved here, too. The National Trustopens in new window owns and manages more than 300 heritage sites – including spectacular lighthouses, homes and gardens, and nature reserves – as part of its mission to conserve important parts of our natural and built history and culture. It relies on a volunteer workforce of more than 7,000 people to continue its conservation and educational work. National Trust volunteers contribute their time and provide an important link with local communities in all kinds of roles like front-of-house staff, tour guides, gardeners, collections management and administration. Also, the various state National Parks and Wildlife Services opens in new window care for some historically significant sites in national parks.
There are many organisations dedicated to the protection and rescue of animals, most of which rely on the work of dedicated volunteers. If you’re an animal lover there are lots of different opportunities available, from transporting animals to foster caring and maintenance and care of animals at shelters. Probably the most well-known of the animal welfare organisations are the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) opens in new window and the Animal Welfare Leagueopens in new window for companion animals, but others such as WIRESopens in new window offer the chance to help save and rehabilitate Australia’s native wildlife.
Any advice and information on this website is general only, and has been prepared without taking into account your particular circumstances and needs. Before acting on any advice on this website you should assess or seek advice on whether it is appropriate for your needs, financial situation and investment objectives.
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