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Each year New Zealand celebrates National Volunteer Week to recognise and give thanks to the vital contribution that our approximately 1.2 million volunteers make – to social development, the economy and the environment.

This year, National Volunteer Week is focusing on time, in particular whai whā (make time) and kia ora mō tāu whai whā (thanks for making time).

Without the time that volunteers give, organisations such as RAW (Reclaim Another Woman), which offers socially disadvantaged women who have been incarcerated a pathway forward to a different lifestyle, through comprehensive wrap around support and education, would cease to exist. And so would the flow on benefits RAW contributes to New Zealand society, by creating highly functional women and mothers, and a new cycle of opportunity and contribution.

We ask Global Women member and RAW founder, Annah Stretton, about the role volunteers play within the organisation and what gaps remain to be filled…

How integral are volunteers to RAW’s operation and success?
Very…so much of what we do is empowered through a capable volunteer network. Not only from the very vital ‘Friends of RAW’ and the fabulous fundraisers they effect but also through pro bono services which give RAW its capacity to grow and embark on new projects.  

What are the areas in which volunteers can assist?
A huge variety of areas. RAW has recently advanced a business/entrepreneurial incubation project so we’re looking for companies and mentors that want to get involved in creating entrepreneurial careers or work opportunities that contribute to the RAW model. We’re also looking for people who want to give their time to get involved in the training courses that we run to get RAW candidates business and work ready. This can be from small intermittent amounts to larger blocks of time that people may have available. 

How much time on average do your volunteers give? 
As much or as little as they like, from two hours a month to a full day a week. It’s more about capable business leaders making contributions to the real outcomes we are achieving through the incubation platform we have established. 

What areas would you like to see more volunteer assistance in?
Leadership capability, life and business coaching, not so much from those specifically in industry but from those that have reached the pinnacle of their careers. Global Women members are a wonderful fit and well placed to instigate this change, as are many others who are in a place of capability and advantage. RAW’s entrepreneurial business incubation is an exciting place to start making a real contribution to the socially disadvantaged. 

What are some of the personal benefits your volunteers take away by helping?
So much and too many to list! When I think of all of the wonderful public recognition that I have been afforded over my 25 years in business, I can truly say nothing compares to working in a model that is well run and achieving very real and innovative outcomes working with a demographic that is so foreign to most of us. Not only is it advancing these incredible women and men and effecting the removal of the stain that incarceration leaves, but it’s also gaining an understanding of their normal and seeing that the problem is actually the solution. Changing the outcomes for this demographic means the multiplier effect will be self-generating. The RAW incubator approach through macro funding, mentoring and on the job training is getting the social and fiscal change we all seek. 

What would you say to people who cite ‘lack of time’ as the reason they don’t volunteer for organisations that need their help?
We are all busy. I suggest it would be a problem if we weren’t. But we possibly need to stop the glorification of “busy”. All of us can DO MORE AND BE MORE, it’s simply a matter of prioritising our time well. It is so important that we balance up the priority that we place on the acquisition of material things with the legacy we can leave for another or a community.


Written by Global Women, 21.06.16