According to Volunteering Australia, more than six million Australians participate in formal volunteering each year. Many Uniting Church members are involved in volunteer activities, both in their congregation and in the wider community.
The call to feed the hungry is central to the Gospel. The Cranbourne Regional Uniting Church Food Truck provides free food to people experiencing homelessness in the Cranbourne area. The food truck receives little funding and is dependent on the hard work of approximately 60 volunteers to keep it operational.
In Swan Hill, the Uniting Church Community Issues Group has supported refugees in the region for more than 15 years. Once a month, the group hosts a ‘Welcome to Refugees’ night attended by up to 100 refugees. These monthly gatherings provide a space for refugees to socialise, share their stories and make friends in their new community. The volunteers also provide food to refugee households and bikes, helmets and school uniforms for children.
For the past 38 years, the Heidelberg-Ivanhoe East Uniting Church drop-in-centre has been a welcoming and friendly space for people with a disability. The centre originally started as a mother-and-child’s group but has since evolved into a community outreach program for the socially isolated. A popular activity is scrapbooking, where volunteers and participants compile photos together. Volunteers also help the elderly learn computer skills through ‘Broadband for Seniors’ lessons.
More than 4000 people volunteer for UnitingCare Vic/Tas (UCVT) agencies every year. From cooking warm meals for people who are homeless to teaching guitar to newly-arrived migrants, these volunteers are the lifeblood of the UCVT network. This year, more than 140 congregations held a Pancake Day event in their community to raise money for people facing financial hardship.
In addition to local outreach programs, many Uniting Church congregations partner with churches in overseas communities. These countries often struggle with poverty, poor infrastructure and frequent natural disasters.
Last year, Wesley Uniting Church in Geelong sent power-tools to help reconstruct a church in Vanuatu, along with seeds for village gardens destroyed by Cyclone Pam. Burwood Heights Uniting Church also hosted a series of concerts to raise funds for relief work in Vanuatu.
These stories are just a snapshot of the various volunteer programs in the Uniting Church. What are some of the volunteer activities that take place at your church? Share them with us in the comments below.