Tell 25 year-old Ben Matthews that young people are shy about volunteering their time to help others and he will quickly tell you how wrong you are.
Ben is an enrolled nurse from Sydney’s northern beaches, where he also gives countless hours of his time each week mentoring young students in schools, keeping our beaches safe and protecting the local community from the dangers of bushfire.
“I think it’s just an easy stereotype to say that young people don’t volunteer as much as older people,” Ben said.
“I work around hundreds of young people who volunteer their time each month at our surf club and Rural Fire Service unit. They bring so much energy, drive and commitment to their work.
“And they take out a real sense of purpose about what they can contribute. I think there’s something about being younger that helps them want to make a difference.”
It’s difficult to accurately measure volunteering rates for people under 24-years of age in Australia. Some studies suggest that one in three young people volunteer each year – similar to adult volunteering rates. While other research puts the figures as high as one in two young people if you consider informal volunteering rates.
This research is reflected in the hundreds of nominations received each year for the NSW Young Volunteer of the Year Award – part of the largest formal celebration of volunteering in Australia.
Ben was awarded the 2016 NSW Young Volunteer of the Year for his efforts in his local clubs and schools – but also for his mentoring and as a role model for young people. He uses his own story as a young person learning to live with cerebral palsy as an example to young students about developing resilience and a positive mindset to setting goals.
“The people I see each week when I volunteer at the Newport Surf Lifesaving and the RFS Coal and Candle Brigade are like a second family to me. I wouldn’t give that up for anything.”
Nominations are now open for the 2018 NSW Young Volunteer of the Year Awards. Nominees need to be 24 years or younger and will be invited to one of 20 regional ceremonies and, if selected, to a special state ceremony later in the year.
To nominate your local young volunteer go to www.volunteering.com.au/volunteer-awards