Virtual volunteering from the comfort of your own home
By LAUREN MARTIN
When Nicholas Lim volunteers for The Salvation Army, the 34-year-old lawyer doesn’t even leave his own home. He’s part of a growing group of Australians donating their time online.
“I started this in 2020 in the middle of COVID,” says Nick. “I had extra time, so I was looking for some volunteer work to do, and then saw an advert on volunteer.com.au and applied, and have been doing it ever since.”
The volunteer advertisement that Nick applied for was for someone to assist The Salvation Army in updating its operational manuals within the Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) services. Working as a Senior Manager in Policy and Compliance at a major bank, Nick’s skills were a huge blessing.
He said he knew of the good work of The Salvation Army but had no personal connection with the organisation and wasn’t even aware that they worked to support people struggling with the harmful effects of alcohol and other drugs. “I understand how to develop and implement policies, but I had no background knowledge of AOD services such as intoxication withdrawal treatment or providing a safe space for individuals with excessive alcohol consumption.
“I feel like my role is trying to capture all the experiences and expertise of the nurses, counsellors and staff in The Salvation Army’s AOD services and express it as simply as possible. And hopefully, people can use it to help with the care they provide to those going through the treatment programs.”
The operating manuals Nick helped develop cover all the duties people can expect as an AOD worker. Supported by the team’s Queensland state manager, Nick assisted in developing a nationwide manual on alcohol withdrawal (during which Nick never left his Sydney home). Next, the team approached him and asked if he wanted to assist with another operational manual, ‘Sobering Up’. He immediately said ‘yes’ and is now onto his third project with the team.
“Harriet and Kathryn [from The Salvation Army Alcohol and Other Drugs stream] are always taken aback when I agree to do another round of writing, and that’s part of the charm of the experience for me – the team has an unassuming nature,” he said, adding that he has also been blown away by the level of care offered by The Salvation Army workers in the Alcohol and Other Drugs space.
“One of the reasons I decided to do this is that I grew up in New Zealand but have Cambodian background,” he said. “When I see a charity like The Salvation Army doing really good work in Cambodia, then ask for volunteers, I find it very easy within me to do that.”
Virtual volunteering allows professionals like Nick, who work Monday to Friday, to support The Salvation Army in more rewarding ways.
According to the Acting General Manager of The Salvation Army’s Volunteer Resources, Vincent Ciardulli, it’s becoming increasingly popular: “It enables people to volunteer in a flexible way, around their other commitments and discretionary time,” Vincent said.
“Digital natives, students and younger professionals are attracted to online volunteering, especially where it aligns with their personal and professional objectives because it supports their objectives in expanding their skillsets, building their experience and exploring their interests in a flexible way.”
The types of roles available within The Salvation Army for online volunteering are varied and involve things like graphic design, online sales and marketing for The Salvation Army’s retail business, IT helpdesk support roles and HR administration.
Like all volunteering, the benefits flow both ways. The Salvation Army gains the assistance of passionate, skilled volunteers, and volunteers gain new skills and experiences that can then be added to their resumes.
“We have seen a number of parents re-enter the workforce via online volunteering after a number of years caring for children,” said Vincent. “It allows them to find a balance between ongoing childcare needs like school drop-off and pick-up and connecting with the workforce and re-engage or learn new skills, as well as build confidence to start the process of looking for paid work.”
For Nick, volunteering outside his work hours and utilising his legal skills to help others really appealed to him. He encourages people to give online volunteering a go: “I still haven’t gotten around to meeting The Salvation Army team that I work with face-face, but I feel like I’m intrinsically involved in the mission,” he said.
If you’re interested in online volunteering with The Salvation Army, you can check out what opportunities are available on our Salvation Army Career Portal: https://www.salvationarmy.org.au/get-involved/volunteer-with-us/
or look up SEEK Volunteer.