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International Volunteer Day: Why supporting our communities and non-profits has never been so important

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Rachael Powell

Dec 2, 2020

It’s International Volunteer Day tomorrow, Saturday 5 December, and I’ve been reflecting on my own involvement with One Girl. This amazing Australia-based charity runs a girl-led education program in Sierra Leone and Uganda.

Many of us were born and raised in environments where education is the norm, and we take this for granted. But this amazing and honourable organisation is changing the trajectory for young women in these third world countries who don’t have the same opportunities.

I’m proud of my 16 year old daughter, Madeline, who has also seen the importance of the work One Girl is doing. As an ambassador for One Girl, Madeline has fostered an interest in the charity within her school, raising money and spreading the word.

As you can probably imagine, charities like these have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic this year. Many rely heavily on donations and volunteers, both of which have significantly dropped this year due to COVID-19.

So that’s why this year, it’s more important than ever to get behind charities. And you can help too – here are some ideas of how you can show your support this International Volunteer Day:

  • Offer your talents to non-profit organisations, churches or local community centres online (for example, data entry, bookkeeping, graphic design, online mentoring or coaching, and so on)
  • Help out by collecting food for your local food bank
  • Find socially distant volunteering opportunities (for example, cleaning up a park)
  • Check in on your neighbours and people in your local community (taking into account your local health and safety guidelines)
  • Send letters to residents at your nearby nursing homes

At Xero, we’re committed to contributing to non-profits in our communities. Our Community Connect program enables every permanent employee to take one full-paid day each financial year to volunteer for a non-profit of their choosing.

We’re incredibly proud of the work our people do in our communities around the world. Our employees have spent more than 7,500 hours volunteering since Community Connect was introduced in 2018. And even though restrictions have made volunteering look a little different in much of the world this year, our employees have had some amazing experiences – I’ve shared a few of these below.

Crista James – Customer Journey Manager (Direct), United States

“2020 has been a little different to other years, but I really wanted to find a way to volunteer because there’s a lot of people that could use a bit of extra help this year.”

I volunteered at the Central Texas Food Bank, whose goal is to help the hungry in the community. Last year, they distributed more than 52 million meals on the table, serving around 46,000 clients each week. This year alone, the Central Texas Food Bank has distributed over 60 million pounds of food to those in need in the community.

I spent the day as part of a human assembly line, packing boxes of dry goods for distribution to hungry families and individuals in Austin, Texas. This was of course done COVID-style with social distancing and masks! I volunteered alongside 13 other volunteers, some who volunteer regularly as well as college students, and other corporate employees using their volunteer hours. It was really inspiring to see the community come together and show up even in challenging times.

Juan Rada-Vilela – Product Data Scientist, New Zealand

“I love the Xero Community Connect hours we get at Xero every year.”

For the last three years, I have spent my Community Connect hours contributing to the Wellington Tramping and Mountaineering Club (WTMC).

I have been the Web President of the WTMC since 2018, and I have taken the Xero volunteering days to help drastically improve their website. Thanks to my experience at Xero, I moved them from a local web host to AWS, which improves the availability and speed of the website. I also spent time moving the club onto Google Suite, which was timely and convenient because it enabled them to take advantage of many of Google’s collaboration features, such as Google Meet. This helped them to stay connected and continue to work on tasks for the club during lockdown.

What’s more, WTMC uses Xero for their accounting so it’s a really great cycle of service that I am proud to have been a part of.

Penny Wildash – Product Manager, New Zealand

“Volunteering is an amazing opportunity to learn, do something for someone else or the planet, be inspired by others who make a difference and terrific for mental wellbeing.”

After the first nationwide lockdown here in New Zealand, and the disconnection we had felt in different ways, my team and I decided to rapidly organise our volunteer day while we had the chance. Jenny Sahng, a Data scientist in our team, put some ideas forward and volunteering for the Department of Conservation in the Remutaka Forest Park near Wellington won the day.

I think all of us loved the experience without question. It was much harder going than we imagined, but with the winter sun shining it brought together two teams of people who don’t normally work together. Peter from the Department of Conservation, who guided and supplied the gloves for weeding, the shovels and the trees for planting, was fantastic. His knowledge and passion for the Catchpool Restoration project and restoring the forest along with the native bird species of birds was inspiring.

Stefanie Redmond – Americas Social Media Manager, United States

“It always feels good to give back, but amidst a global pandemic, volunteering made me feel a little less helpless.”

I spent my Community Connect hours helping my family with their annual neighbourhood food drive. With social distancing in place due to COVID-19, my uncle created a flyer asking neighbors to leave non-perishable donations on their porch. My family and I collected the items and gathered at the community centre for sorting – checking expiration dates, removing anything past its prime, and dividing the goods to be delivered to three St. Louis Metro area charities: Grace United Methodist; Grace and Peace Fellowship; and New Cote Brilliante.

Volunteering this year gave me a deeper sense of giving back at a time when many are suffering, and the feeling was mutual because this year more than 2,400 items were donated to the community food drive, which is more than double the previous record!

Chris Viggers – Transactional Tax Product Manager, New Zealand

“Xero gives us a day each year to volunteer in our community, so I was able to start my new job and still make time to give back to my community. Win-win!”

As Kiwis, we love our unique natural ecosystem here in New Zealand so a group of 15 passionate Xero employees from Wellington headed over to the Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary. Our mission: to clear out native trees and shrubs from overgrown areas so they could be saved, and eventually planted elsewhere in the park.

It was a little daunting at first; ‘what was a native shrub vs a non-native, vs a weed!’ Luckily we had the amazing knowledgeable park staff on hand to answer all our questions. We cleared a massive area of the park and saved many bucketfuls of beautiful species. It made us realise that without the help of volunteers like us, the staff at Zealandia would never have had the time to do this themselves.

I’d encourage you all to volunteer in any way you can. Find what you’re most passionate about and contact your local non-profits in this space to ask about any opportunities they have to volunteer. You can read more about how Xero helps our communities as part of our social and environmental impact initiatives here.

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