Sunday, May 15, 2011

Volunteer Week, Volunteer Management and Mr Belser

I haven’t blogged for awhile. This time I will utilise the most common Volunteer Management excuse – I have just been too busy.

This week has been National Volunteer Week in Australia (NVW ) . And for me personally it’s probably been the best in a long time. So now that it’s over I can pen a few words about my experience and impressions of the week. Personal musings as it were and I hope you can share yours too.

I need not preface this blog by saying Volunteers Week is all about the volunteers…and not volunteer management. Because both are interlinked.
Although peak bodies for volunteering do much to promote these weeks, which are celebrated at different times throughout the globe by the way, I belive that the volunteer management sector have a huge role in ensuring that these weeks are successful. Now what makes a NVW successful you may ask? Recognition of volunteers? An understanding of volunteerism? More recruitment? Just thank you? All of the above?

Sue Hine in her latest blog writes a salient piece on the marketing of volunteering and it is well worth a read. Check it out through the link on this site.

On the ground and at the coal face Volunteer managers and coordinators should be ensuring that volunteers feel valued. And during this week we put in a lot of effort through recognition, promotional and thanksgiving events. All of which must be planned for and organised. Because it is at an organisational level that volunteers should feel valued. We can sing and dance about volunteering all week until the cows come home, and get plaudits from Prime ministers and Presidents but unless this is occurring at a local level then the message and purpose gets lost for volunteers.
Another reason why peak bodies for volunteering should engage more with the volunteer management sector no? It’s just common sense to me. Some are getting it though.

I attended the One Big GLOBAL Thank You run by Volunteering Queensland on Tuesday. It was such a great event where volunteers through modern technology were able to share their inspiring stories via the web. So we had volunteers from flood affected areas in Queensland connected to volunteers from the earthquake affected Christchurch in New Zealand get together online and talk.

It was very emotional and groundbreaking stuff

Another item that really pleased me was the fact that Jelenko Dragisic, CEO of Volunteering Queensland in his inspiring speech mentioned volunteer Management and the need to support VM in the future through educational pathways such as their Cert 4 in volunteer coordination.

Finally a CEO who was linking volunteering and volunteer management. Yes the week was all about the volunteers. But the acknowledgment that volunteer managers and coordinators make a significant difference in our sectors was refreshing.

Volunteering Queensland is doing some amazing things – you only need to search out their website.Is there a possibility of them being a global leader on how volunteering peak bodies should interact with the volunteer management sector?

On a personal level it was an emotional week for volunteers I believe in Queensland. I heard people speak of the enormous contribution of volunteers during the floods. Such as the guy who owns Drift restaurant in Brisbane. Readers around the globe may recall an image from the Queensland floods of a riverside restaurant being swept away and floating down the river. This week the owner spoke of the hundreds of volunteers who turned up to help the next day. He was touched. We all were. and by the thousands who got up one morning and headed out in our community to assist.

This week I was fortunate enough to hear Fral Streit from Volunteering Queensland talk about her memories of that week. Where thousands of volunteers self mobilized. During her talk she was moved. Everyone listening to her were too.

There was an emotive touch to proceedings to volunteer recognition events in Queensland this year I believe. And in many other places too.
And although I wasn’t personally affected by natural disaster I felt that emotion.

It was probably reflected in my own address to volunteers this year. I spoke about time and the here and now. I spoke about how we often get distracted and worried about a future that is yet to come and a past that will never return. I spoke about the gifts that we miss in the here and now. The present. And how we sometimes forget to acknowledge what happens now. The gifts that people give. The gift of time. In essence the extraordinary act of volunteering. And then I spoke of Mr. Belser. The author of this piece is unknown. It resonated with me and I hope it resonates with some of you too. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.

It had been some time since Jack had seen the old man. College, girls, career, and life itself got in the way. In fact, Jack moved clear across the country in pursuit of his dreams. There, in the rush of his busy life, Jack had little time to think about the past and often no time to spend with his wife and son. He was working on his future, and nothing could stop him.

Over the phone, his mother told him, "Mr. Belser died last night. The funeral is Wednesday."

Memories flashed through his mind like an old newsreel as he sat quietly remembering his childhood days.

"Jack, did you hear me?"

"Oh sorry, Mom. Yes, I heard you. It's been so long since I thought of him. I'm sorry, but I honestly thought he died years ago," Jack said.

"Well, he didn't forget you. Every time I saw him he'd ask how you were doing. He'd reminisce about the many days you spent over 'his side of the fence' as he put it," Mom told him.

"I loved that old house he lived in," Jack said.

"You know, Jack, after your father died, Mr. Belser stepped in to make sure you had a man's influence in your life," she said.

"He's the one who taught me carpentry," he said. "I wouldn't be in this business if it weren't for him. He spent a lot of time teaching me things he thought were important... Mom, I'll be there for the funeral," Jack said.

As busy as he was, he kept his word. Jack caught the next flight to his hometown. Mr. Belser's funeral was small and uneventful. He had no children of his own, and most of his relatives had passed away.

The night before he had to return home, Jack and his Mom stopped by to see the old house next door one more time.

Standing in the doorway, Jack paused for a moment. It was like crossing over into another dimension, a leap through space and time.

The house was exactly as he remembered. Every step held memories. Every picture, every piece of furniture... Jack stopped suddenly.

"What's wrong, Jack?" his Mom asked.

"The box is gone," he said.

"What box?" Mom asked.

"There was a small gold box that he kept locked on top of his desk. I must have asked him a thousand times what was inside. All he'd ever tell me was 'the thing I value most,'" Jack said.

It was gone. Everything about the house was exactly how Jack remembered it, except for the box. He figured someone from the Belser family had taken it.

"Now I'll never know what was so valuable to him," Jack said. "I better get some sleep. I have an early flight home, Mom."

It had been about two weeks since Mr. Belser died. Returning home from work one day Jack discovered a note in his mailbox. "Signature required on a package. No one at home. Please stop by the main post office within the next three days," the note read.

Early the next day Jack retrieved the package. The small box was old and looked like it had been mailed a hundred years ago. The handwriting was difficult to read, but the return address caught his attention.

"Mr. Harold Belser" it read.

Jack took the box out to his car and ripped open the package. There inside was the gold box and an envelope. Jack's hands shook as he read the note inside.

"Upon my death, please forward this box and its contents to Jack Bennett. It's the thing I valued most in my life." A small key was taped to the letter. His heart racing, as tears filling his eyes, Jack carefully unlocked the box. There inside he found a beautiful gold pocket watch.

Running his fingers slowly over the finely etched casing, he unlatched the cover. Inside he found these words engraved:

"Jack, Thanks for your time! -Harold Belser."

"The thing he valued time."

Jack held the watch for a few minutes, then called his office and cleared his appointments for the next two days. "Why?" Janet, his assistant asked.

"I need some time to spend with my son," he said. "Oh, by the way, Janet... thanks for your time!"

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