By Callum Ludwig
The community-minded attitude of many Upper Yarra residents is one of the most cherished aspects of the region, and there are plenty of opportunities to contribute through volunteering.
From sports to socialising or the environment to helping those less fortunate, finding something you are passionate about and contributing to the cause is a fulfilling experience.
President-Elect of the Rotary Club of the Upper Yarra Jan Burney said one of the greatest things a human can do is offer service.
“There’s so much scope when you’re in something like a rotary club because you’re going to have the opportunity to be with like-minded friends and have some fun, but also to be able to be in service and it’s open to anybody,” she said
“All of what we do is help people, for example, local education is an ongoing focus for us, but we’re open to other ideas if somebody came along with something they thought we should be involved in and have the passion and the drive to back that, we would be open to it.”
Ms Burney is also involved in the Millgrove Residents Action Group (MRAG), who were recently named Yarra Ranges Council’s Community Group of the Year, whose volunteer efforts have helped to care for and maintain the township.
Ms Burney said people should act as if what they do matters because it does.
“The happiest people have an aspect of volunteering in their life activities and if you are not happy this is one positive way to become happy, whilst contributing, it’s a double win,” she said.
“It is highly likely there may be an opening in your busy life to spend time helping out and no, you do not need to be a martyr, just a few hours make a huge difference to whomever or
whatever you place energy to.”
At the Koha Community Cafe, an opportunity to get involved in maintaining the Koha Community Garden at the Warburton Primary School is coming up on Thursday 15 February.
Anyone interested can come to visit the garden, which helps supply fresh produce for community dinners at the cafe, from 9.30am for a two-hour information session.
Vice-President and Secretary of the Koha Community Cafe Alexandra Barton-Johnson said they need volunteers to come and help them harvest, weed, mulch and build garden beds.
“We are doing an induction and then people can come and garden whenever they want to, for example, we need blackberries picked right now and we need some children to climb underneath the vines because they’ve gone mad,” she said.
“We have a goal of trying to organise a crop plan, and we’d love some people to just lend their hands and their brains as well if they know something about gardening and have some skills to offer.”
Produce harvested from the community garden or local homes can be dropped off to Lily Beth between 10am and 1pm at the cafe on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and will make it on the menu for the Thursday night dinners. There are also volunteer opportunities to help with food service, cooking and the delivery of food donated to Koha which comes from local gardens, the Koha garden, Second Bite, Aldi and Yarra Valley ECOSS, where Ms Barton-Johnson also helps out.
There are plenty of volunteer opportunities at the ADRA Redwood Community Centre, including a new one to help manage a fun new space for little local residents.
Manager Kate Barratt said they are looking for volunteers to help manage, promote and run their new ‘Brushy’s Playspace.’
“It’s a free kids’ playroom for our parents and carers to bring kids down to enjoy that’s safe, it’s not loud like a lot of cafes and things can be and if it’s raining, it’s out of the weather,” she said.
“Our volunteers are vital to our organisation, but I think having a cohesive volunteer group is just so important to the volunteers themselves because it builds us into community,”
“The most important thing about volunteering, being able to give yourself to something and just to get the intrinsic reward in return, is you have to care about it, finding something that suits you and sparks a passion for you is the most important step to finding the right volunteer organisation for you.”
If plants or gardening is your thing, consider joining groups such as Permaculture Yarra Valley, Yarra Valley ECOSS, the Edible Garden in Warburton or the Upper Yarra Valley Garden Club.
Similarly, the Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater and Friends of the Leadbeater’s Possum groups are hands-on with nature and care about the conservation of the state’s faunal emblems.
Other animal welfare opportunities can be found at the Forever Friends Animal Rescue or Waratah Wildlife Shelter.
The Rotary Clubs in Wandin and the Upper Yarra like to support their local community with projects, while MRAG and the Seville Township Group also focus on community projects and issues in their towns.
LinC Yarra Valley, the River Valley Church and the Koha Community Cafe all help to distribute the gift of food and meals out to the Upper Yarra.
Local sporting clubs rely on many hands making light work while parents might also like to see if there’s an opportunity at their kids’ schools to help out.
If you are a frequent traveller you might also enjoy being a driver for Upper Yarra Community Transport, helping people access vital services they might otherwise struggle to get to.