It’s Show Time- that is Bellingen Show time. And this year the dates of the Bellingen Show coincide with National Volunteer Week (NVW). National Volunteer Week is the annual celebration to acknowledge the generous contribution of our nation’s volunteers. Right here in The Bellingen Shire “the towns are kept afloat by the often unseen volunteers, making a world of difference to the community,” says local resident and habitual volunteer Rowena McGregor.
‘Making a World of Difference’ is the theme for this year’s National Volunteer Week. We decided to shine a light on Rowena, a local unsung hero and a Bellingen Show committee volunteer, who has certainly cooked her fair share of sausages and then some!
Rowena has been a Bellingen Shire resident for 17 years, but has been volunteering in some capacity all her life. “I’m from a family of volunteers,” says Rowena. For the past few months Rowena’s primary focus has been on the Bellingen Show– 25th and 26th May, which coincidentally is suffering from a paucity of new volunteers. We were interested to know what drives Rowena in the hope that her enthusiasm might be contagious.
Rowena what has driven you to volunteer for most of your life?
Basically, I’m bossy! Part of it is being bold too. If I can see something needs doing- I’ll do it. I suppose you could say I’m a worker- I don’t care how hard I need to work so long as the job gets done. Also- volunteering has given back to me so much more. In difficult times for me personally, volunteering has afforded me new skills, new friends and has been able to build my confidence and allow me to grow as a person.
Can you elaborate?
In 1995 I fled an emotionally violent domestic situation with two small children. I found myself in the Blue Mountains where I didn’t know anyone and my self esteem had plummeted. I decided that no one was going to knock on my door to help- that I would need to take steps to get involved in my new community. Both the local Neighbourhood Centre and the local Tennis Centre required volunteer workers. The work was flexible and it gave me a reason to leave the house every day. The decision to work for the local Neighbourhood Centre actually resulted in a chain of events that I couldn’t have imagined- even meeting my partner Ted, (Greenwood). The work I was doing put me into the community while providing support for my children. The community became our family.
Had you ever volunteered before this move?
When I was in 4th class at school, my friend Jenny Walker and I became aware of the Ethiopian Crisis. We decided to run our own fete in the school playground. There were all the usuals- lucky dips, cake stalls, games. We made a profit of $100 to send to our chosen charity. This made me realise the power of passion and hard work. I’ve been volunteering ever since.
Since your move to the Bellingen Shire, has volunteering continued to be such a rich experience?
Absolutely. I’ve managed to work with so many members of the local community. I’ve volunteered with refugee groups, our local indigenous community, the Royal Fire Service, Relay for Life and of course the Bellingen Show for many years. All of these opportunities have given me a skill set that I’m so grateful for while allowing me to befriend so many people in our community.
So how important is it that community members volunteer in a small region like ours?
It’s essential. An event like the Bellingen Show couldn’t exist without the generosity of volunteers. Our older community members were raised on the ethos of volunteering. Unfortunately, it isn’t easy to fill the void as our older volunteering community bow out. It is no secret that the Bellingen Show is struggling to find enough volunteers to keep this annual event viable. We are crying out to the community to get involved.
Can you see a solution to this problem?
I think that there must be many members of this community who are lonely or who have excess time on their hands. Volunteering is fun. It gives you so much back. I feel honoured to be able to be a part of the many groups that I’ve served and have gained so many new skills and more importantly, friends. They say it takes a community to raise a child. Volunteering allows adults with skills to mentor our next generation. Just give it a go!