1 August 2016

Ask not what your community can do for you; ask what you can do for your community.

Grounded for winter – no way. I’ve been out and about taking in some of the many community events held over the recent Sydney Pride Festival. It was great to see how this grassroots festival has grown and developed its own identity. It has become a wonderful opportunity for many of our community organisations to inform, educate, entertain and raise funds.

The one thing you notice at every event is the number of people now giving their time for community charities, support and social groups. All genders, all ages – volunteers are the cogs of our community’s heart.

I know from my own personal experience over the years just how much fun and personally rewarding the volunteers’ experience can be; to anyone considering joining in – I say jump!

I spoke to my friend Steph Sands, who in 2015 won the Honour Award for Community Hero. For over 15 years, Steph has developed, guided and supported a broad range of LGBTI community organisations and events, including as co-chair of Mardi Gras and founder of Women Say Something. She said she originally got involved as a volunteer because she wasn’t meeting the type of people she wanted to in the clubs and bars. She was looking for more.

“If you want to create community you have to be community,” Steph said. “It doesn’t matter how you get involved, or how much: just be involved. Do what you feel comfortable doing and be open to meeting some other community minded people in the process.

“I simply wouldn’t have the skills, the network or the professional experiences if it weren’t for volunteering at Mardi Gras,” Steph added. “I had the privilege of sitting across board tables with individuals from many diverse professional backgrounds and it was both an experience and an education to work with them.”

Steph’s service is exemplary, but scratch around and volunteers are important at every level and in every one of our local organisations.