Recruiting for our own ‘volunteer army’

There’s a popular saying that everyone needs to play to their strengths. 

Never has this been more true than in times when communities are called to come together to support each other during a time of crisis. As we witness a seemingly unending torrent of climate related disasters across the world, we can’t help but to pause and reflect on how lucky we are to live in Tasmania.

But as we know, despite living in such a beautiful temperate location we are not immune to climate related weather events.

With bushfires and floods causing significant damage at both ends of our island, Tasmanians are comforted knowing that we have a highly trained team of emergency services workers and volunteers ready to protect our communities.

Yet for the rest of us, it can be hard to sit back and watch. But there is something we can do and it involves playing to our strengths.

Once any disaster areas have been contained and are safe to enter, people will be needed to provide assistance with the recovery effort. This may take days, or even months, but when the region is safe there will be opportunities for people from backgrounds and experiences to help.

This will include those who are qualified tradespeople like carpenters or electricians. It will include farmers, fishermen or construction workers who have access to tractors, boats or bulldozers that can help clear debris or transport people and equipment into isolated areas. 

It also includes those of us whose strengths are rolling up our sleeves and providing support in the best way that we know how such as cooking meals or packing food-hampers, and those handy with a chainsaw or a shovel who don’t mind getting out and clearing fallen trees or replanting new ones.  

There will be a role for all of us and there are many incredible stories of how seemingly ordinary people have made extraordinary impact, simply by playing to their strengths. 

On home soil the ‘Mud Army’ in Queensland, are leaving a lasting legacy following this year’s Cyclone Debbie by moving furniture, cleaning houses and helping to remove debris from people’s homes.

In America, following the recent devastation of Hurricane Harvey, we are already starting to hear the stories of the volunteer bakers making hundreds of bread loaves for victims and every day citizens lining up for hours to sign up to help. 

Luckily here in Tasmania, those interested in helping don’t need to wait for a disaster to occur and don’t need to line up to register their interest to help.

Tasmanians can register their interest to volunteer immediately through Volunteering Tasmania’s Emergency Volunteering database, also known as ECVREW. An initiative delivered in partnership with the Tasmanian Government, EVCREW enables people from all walks of life to put their name down to be called upon in a time of need.

And while we hope that it may be months or years before there is a need to ‘activate’ people on the list to help, Tasmanians are urged to register now.

So don’t be shy Tasmania – we all have something to give, whether it be baking bread or planting tree, and the larger our ‘island volunteer army’, the more prepared we will be to recover from a natural disaster quicker and stronger than before. 

  • Alison Lai is Volunteering Tasmania’s the chief executive officer. To register your name the emergency volunteering database visit volunteeringtas.org.au