Why do we bother volunteering for support, social or other groups in our community?

Indeed, there are myriad reasons why people offer their time and energy to a worthy cause.

Given the vast number of community groups out there, it is not surprising that you could almost feel overwhelmed with where to start. I know, because I was like that, not knowing what to do or where to begin, before I decided to get involved with ‘our community’.

The term ‘community’ can be very difficult to explain. Sometimes, when I open the gay rags, glance at Facebook or listen to JOY 94.9 FM, I find myself wondering, “Is this what the word ‘community’ means?”

Then I take a reasonably hard look at myself, shrug my shoulders and think, “Why am I concerned so much with what the ‘community’ means?”

I got involved with the Victorian AIDS Council/ Gay Men’s Health Centre (VAC/GMHC) as a volunteer at the suggestion of a counsellor. I had a crush on him, and he correctly suggested I should channel my energy into something positive other than seeing him for further counselling.

Back in 1989, HIV was a hot topic in the gay community. My (now ex) counsellor thought it would be a great place for me to get involved as a volunteer and steering my thoughts from focusing on him to do something for ‘the community’.

Indeed, “giving something back to the community” is a common answer given by potential outreach volunteers. Nine times out of 10, this is their prime motivation.

When pressed, they often elaborate along these lines: “When I first came out and went to gay pub/club/SOPVs, there was someone who took me under their wing and told me the whys and wherefores — basically, someone who helped me along the way”.

So, while there are guys out there who are only out for a quick wham bam thank you ma’am at SOPVs or other places where sex happens, there are many more folk who actually care about others.

They welcome those experiencing ‘coming out on the scene for the first time’ and are supportive of them.

While they are not actively engaged as a ‘volunteer’ for any particular organisation, in my eyes they are already volunteering their time and energy. This is because of the helping hands and support they offer, especially to those who are relatively new to the ‘gay community’.

Remember how you felt when you first ‘came out to the scene’. Perhaps this is a good incentive for you to support others and volunteer your time to ‘the community’ for a worthy cause.

If you are interested in volunteering at the VAC/GMHC, call 03 9865 6700 and ask for the Volunteer Coordinator.

By TEX MCKENZIE

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