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Foundation Chair, Jennifer Leslie, reflects on National Volunteers Week

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

On Saturday I had the pleasure of representing Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation at the high tea fundraiser of our charity partner Friends with Dignity - a volunteer based not-for-profit registered charity that provides practical programs to assist survivors of domestic violence, in collaboration with refuge and crisis centres.

Like many of our charity partners, Friends with Dignity relies on volunteers who are committed to making a difference within the community, and changing the lives of the men, women and children they assist – helping them to leave violent and abusive relationships and start afresh.

Held at the culmination of National Volunteers Week, the event was made possible by a small army of volunteers, including over 20 of our Newcastle Permanent employees who gave up their Saturday to lend a helping hand for this cause.

Seeing such a wonderful spirit of giving and care in action in National Volunteers Week prompted me to really think about the incredible value volunteers offer across our footprint, and to ponder what more of ourselves each of us can volunteer in order to help others or really make a difference.

The work of the Charitable Foundation brings us in to contact with grass-roots organisations who make an enormous difference to the lives of people facing disadvantage or marginalisation in our community, and with the many people behind the scenes who lead the charge towards ‘better’ for so many.

Volunteering is many things: it’s selfless, it’s generous, it’s valuable, it is kind. It can be challenging, time consuming, heart-wrenching and often thought-provoking. But above all, it is always rewarding.

The very notion of volunteering is an offering. Volunteering stems from a place of wanting to help, wanting to contribute. But it needn’t be as labour or time intensive as you might think.

We hear so often that the biggest barrier to people volunteering to help is time. In our busy worlds, which are full of competing priorities and a never ending to do list, it is often hard to find the time to commit to ‘more’; to helping outside the realm of our everyday responsibilities.

As I reflected on the selfless generosity of the many volunteers recognised during National Volunteers Week, my mind returned back to how we can do more and, in turn, to what our Charitable Foundation charity partners keep telling us they need most right now. And surprisingly, it’s not massive amounts of time, or even necessarily money (although more is always welcomed), but rather skills and expertise.

It’s people who know how to fix computers, write media releases, those with local business contacts, with accounting skills, who can build a website, repair a leaking tap, write a grant submission, explain social media, design an invitation, take photos at an event, draft an employee handbook, write some website content, plan events, translate documents or lend any skill they have learned; even just once!

Inside each of us is a wealth of knowledge that, through even just a five minute conversation or helping hand, will ease a challenge for a charity partner and allow them to focus on what they do best; directly supporting someone in need.

On Saturday, our team’s skilled volunteer donation helped to ensure that Friends with Dignity were able to focus on their area of expertise: supporting people who are victims of domestic violence.

Most recently we have come to know the work this charity performs to not only help people and families escape violence, but also rebuild their lives sustainably so they can recover, regroup and thrive. For someone whose life is thrust into chaos, having a friend who can provide a safe, comfortable home must feel extraordinary. Friends with Dignity is just one of the worthy charities we will recognise this Thursday at our Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation Grant Ceremony.

In recent years we have invested in numerous projects that aim to break the cycle of violence, including infrastructure for shelters, community awareness programs, and support for people whose lives continue to be impacted by historical violence. We are heartened by the increasing awareness in the community of this issue but we also know much more can be done.

We are proud of have enabled Friends with Dignity, presenting them with a cheque for $32,000 to expand the impact of Friends with Dignity’s Sanctuary program, and also support the development of a volunteer training and governance program to increase the sustainability of the program for years to come. Our shared vision for a better future, free of violence and full of opportunity is one we can all aspire to.

Through our sharing of our individual skills and expertise we can help our many domestic violence prevention charity partners aspire to this vision, and our other partners to many other goals, each helping to rewrite the future for people in need now, and for generations to come.

I’m confident that the reward of sharing a skill you hold with a charity will be tenfold the time it takes to invest it and have an impact that is positively immeasurable.

Jennifer Leslie is Chair of the Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation.

Charitable Foundation staff and Newcastle Permanent volunteers
Volunteer staff from Newcastle Permanent and the Charitable Foundation.

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