Make the most of National Volunteer Week this year

Community June 17, 2024

Reflections for Te Wiki Tūao ā-Motu National Volunteer Week 2024 on behalf of Abbie Bull, Head of Community and Sustainability at Z.

These days, a lot of us are trying to find more meaning, whether through our work, hobbies and relationships, or by reconsidering the role that social media plays in our daily lives. They’re big factors, but most of us could also benefit from looking further afield. Contributing to your community in a meaningful way can provide you with some surprising health benefits. A 2020 study involving 70,000 participants in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that people who volunteered were more satisfied with their lives than those who didn’t. Another report that looked at 158 international studies about the well-being impacts of volunteering found evidence that volunteering is positively linked to enhanced wellbeing, improved life satisfaction and increased happiness. So that ”warm glow” you feel after giving back to something worthy, might actually be the antidote to your stressful ‘day job’.  

At Z Energy (Z), we stand for a resilient and healthy Aotearoa New Zealand that empowers our communities and Z whānau. Community is one of our four stands – the things that matter most to our business – and we give thoughtful consideration to how we can best serve the places where we operate. Often that involves being a funder of initiatives like the Puhinui Regeneration Project, a mana whenua-led effort to clean up a polluted South Auckland awa (river) which is one of the projects supported by Z’s annual $1 million biodiversity fund.

But giving back doesn’t always mean giving money. It’s important that our staff are empowered to connect with and support their local communities. That’s why we give staff two days of paid leave each year to volunteer for something that matters to them, and why we’re so happy to be supporting Te Wiki Tūao ā-Motu National Volunteer Week 2024. It’s a chance for Z to celebrate and shout-out to all the members of our whānau who gave their time to their communities this year, and inspire those who haven’t yet used their volunteering leave.

Z has offered annual volunteering leave for quite a while now, and we’re seeing more and more of our staff taking advantage of it each year. By the middle of 2024, we expect around a third of our people will have taken at least one leave day to give back to their communities. But that increase in uptake doesn’t just happen on its own – we’ve found you need to actively promote volunteering and create opportunities for it to happen. It’s not that people don’t want to volunteer, but between work and family commitments it can feel like a challenge to find the time. Sometimes people need a little encouragement to take the day and get out into their communities, so part of our volunteering leave initiative is focused on promoting volunteer opportunities to our staff and demonstrating how easy it can be to make a difference.

The places where the Z whānau volunteer are as varied as our people themselves. In many cases, the initial outreach comes from a Z volunteer with a personal connection to the cause. That was the case with Bellyful, an organisation that cooks and delivers free frozen meals for families with babies or young children who need support. One of our staff members was grateful to have had the support of Bellyful 18 months ago when she was caring for a baby with health issues. For her, volunteering in the Bellyful kitchen was a meaningful way to give back and pay it forward.

Part of my role at Z is to support our volunteering programme, and luckily volunteering is something that’s close to my heart. My younger brother has an intellectual disability, and through him I became involved with the Special Olympics where I coached basketball. More recently, a lot of my volunteering has involved mountain biking – one of my passions – and I work regularly with local non-profit organisations that encourage women and youth to grow confidence through cycling. I also recently joined a group of Z volunteers at Waiwhetū Marae in Lower Hutt, where we cleaned whakairo (carvings) and prepared paaharakeke (flax bush) for weaving and learned about the incredibly valuable work the marae does as part of the urban papakāinga (housing whānau of Te Āti Awa descendants) community.

Something I love about volunteering is that it’s often a win-win for both the organisation involved and the volunteers themselves. Most of the time you’ll come away from a volunteering experience having benefitted in some way, whether that’s learning a new skill or meeting people with different life experiences and perspectives. Volunteering can be so great for team building, too. Why take the team go-karting or bowling when you could be doing something both fun and fulfilling instead? I’ve also heard it’s an excellent way to spend time with your teenagers during the school holidays.

The value of volunteering has grown even more in the last few months as the cost of living continues to bite. With a tougher economic climate, individuals and businesses may be looking to pull back on their charitable giving, and volunteering is a great way to bridge that gap – by giving the gift of time rather than money, they can continue to contribute to their communities in a meaningful way.

National Volunteer Week isn’t just an opportunity to encourage Z staff to use their volunteering leave. It’s also a time to reaffirm Z’s long-standing commitment to volunteering and the deep connections between our people and the communities we serve. Because it’s not just about what happens during those two days of leave – it’s about the ongoing relationships we forge and the magic that happens when we give back.

National Volunteer Week Te Wiki Tūao ā-Motu 2024 runs from 16-22 June.