Saturday, September 11, 2010

Community....just another word?

Every day, somewhere in Cairns, we hear about another local person who has done something extraordinary or we are celebrating the achievements of entire groups of people. We have Mother's Day and Father's Day, we celebrate sporting achievements, academic achievements, promotions, acts of bravery and our local high achieving community organisations. These people are our heros. These are the ones who are doing great things, some in small ways, some on a large scale. For that reason we should continue to support them, encourage them and celebrate them.

Over the past few years I have met another group of heros who are not celebrated, recognised or compensated for their tireless efforts. Some work as hard as any full time employee would, they often carry the workload of 10 people amongst two or three of them and they all are trying to make their community a better one.

Who are they? They are the committees of the local organisations and schools. The P&F, P&C, AFL, NRL, RSL, Baseball, Soccer, Gymnastics, Leukemia Foundation, COUCH, Hambledon House, Mission Australia, PCYC, Autism Support Group, Playgroup, and any other organisation you can think of. We all, at some stage, will reqire their help; to find out about upcoming events, to give us advice, to help our children participate, to inform the community and to supply us with the constant stream of sausage sizzles we rely on for a quick meal at Bunnings.

I currently participate heavily on four of these committees and have witnessed how hard they are to run. Sometimes it is tough to get enough people together willing to give up some time to the cause and committees struggle along with heavy burdens.

School communities do not function as successfully without their Parent Committees. These are responsible for a majority of the fundraising through Fete's, Trivia Nights, Garage Sales, BBQ's and a variety of other events. The funds raised pay for vital equipment for the school, education nights, science nights, musicals and tuckshops and benefits every child in attendance. Sporting clubs without a restaurant and bar also use various fun days, raffles and events to raise much needed cash for sporting trips, equipment and staffing. Others like the RSL, COUCH, Autism Support, Hambledon House etc..use the money raised to educate the community, offer services desperately needed and a support base for those requiring it.

A committee comes from a large base of people and consists of the very few who are willing to contribute their time to the cause. There are often barely enough people at meetings to run one and they are overburdened with the majority of the work. They are in charge of organising the events, raffles etc.. and quite often end up spending all their time running the whole thing as well. More and more people are choosing to support important groups with a few dollars (which is still needed) rather than with time and it's causing stress and disillusionment for those who are willing to give so much.

Nobody can deny that all of the community groups are essential ones and that we need them to continue to function well. I would like to take this opportunity to thank every single member of every community based committee and congratulate you all on your extraordinary efforts. I know it's tough sometimes, but I have a proposition to make to the rest of you.

I propose that every single adult donates three hours of their time, every year, to one local organisation they have an interest in.

If we all gave just those few hours away, the benefit would be huge and our communities would prosper. If you have more time available than that, say three hours per month, then for goodness sakes, join a committee. Do it even if there is no benefit to you except to help out where you are needed. Give something back to the community and you will find the rewards are substantial. You will meet people that you would never have met otherwise, you will form friendships, you will interact with the local residents, you will feel useful and you will be greatly appreciated.

A friend of mine recently posted a comment somewhere asking for responses from us all on what we thought 'community' meant. It was worrying that responses included 'There is no sense of community any more in Cairns'. I really hope that that is not true. I feel like a valuable member of the community here in Bentley Park and Edmonton. My neighbours all help each other out when required, the school my daughter attends has a wonderful sense of community and is actively involved in participating in more community based events. Mission Australia runs several events here for families to attend that are well run, busy and a lot of fun for kids and adults alike. My local Playgroup has given me the opportunity to become an integral part of it and my kids and I enjoy our weekly visits very much. Edmonton Community Kindergarten has afforded me the opportunity to participate in many fundraising events this year and along the way I have fostered friendships with many parents and my children have done the same. The ANZAC Day celebration this year in Ravizza Park was a particularly wonderful day to be a part of and I await with anticipation the Carols By Candlelight evening at the end of this year.

Our communities are only as close as we allow them to be. If we feel disconnected and removed from our surrounding area then we need to actively get out there and become a part of it. I have, and I cannot recommend it enough. There is nothing quite like the feeling you get when a class full of kids recieve a new computer, when single parents with no local family feel supported, when Diggers have a place to go for a cuppa and a chat, when families don't have to struggle to pay the bills while a member of the family undergoes cancer treatment, when a disillusioned teenager offers respect because they recieved it from you.

Live every day as though the community you live in is part of your extended family. Give them your time, without expectation, and 'community' will no longer be just another word.

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