Hundreds of Otago residents offer to volunteer

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In the past week, more than 600 people across Otago have put their hands up to help others by registering with Volunteering Otago.

Dunedin-based Volunteering Otago manager Leisa de Klerk said the organisation was liaising with the Dunedin City Council to match people in need with volunteers in their area, while also working to keep people safe during the Covid-19 lockdown.

“We are getting about 30 people signing up to volunteer each day across the region, which is fantastic,” Ms de Klerk said.

“In addition, we are offering our advice and support to essential services and not-for-profit organisations about how to most effectively and safely use volunteers.

“We are very keen to keep people from straying outside their ‘bubble’, even if it is to volunteer.”

Volunteering Otago has circulated a comprehensive set of nationally-approved guidelines for volunteers and organisations to ensure that they are following the Level 4 rules.

“Volunteering is completely different in a pandemic than it would be in an earthquake or flood,” she said.

“The last thing we want is for there to be gatherings of people.

“We want people to know they can support their neighbours. They just need to change how they do it and stay safe.”

Ms de Klerk said neighbourhood volunteers would be helpful for people who might not be registered with a support agency, but have difficulty getting groceries or other essential supplies.

These people could call the DCC welfare support helpline, on 0800 322 4000, to register for volunteer support.

Those details would be forwarded to Volunteering Otago for matching with a community volunteer living nearby.

Volunteering Otago was providing this co-ordination service in Dunedin, Waitaki, and parts of Central Otago, while colleagues at Volunteering Central were working in the Queenstown Lakes area.

Ms de Klerk said the organisation was well used to providing support for not-for-profit organisations, however, the pandemic response and lockdown had led to a rise in “spontaneous volunteering”.

“So, this is why we are providing resources to organisations on how to deal with spontaneous volunteers.”

Volunteering Otago was also working with organisations, such as the Cancer Society, to ensure that there were sufficient volunteers to carry out vital work over an extended period.

“We are getting people to think about how they will approach things if this situation goes on for longer than originally intended,” she said.

“It is about supporting them for the long term.”

Ms de Klerk said many organisations were doing important work during this period of uncertainty.

“We are seeing some really great collaboration out there.”

People needing volunteer support can phone the DCC on 0800 322 4000.

To register with Volunteering Otago, visit the website volunteersouth.co.nz.