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Over that last 2 weeks in Adelaide there have been extensive fires in our rural communities. Over 14,000 ha have been lost. The flora and fauna of the bush has been devastated. Many people have lost homes, valued possessions, and sadly furry loved ones. My heart breaks for the individuals who have suffered loss.

Yet, knowing that there are people who have risked their own lives to fight the fires and support the environment, wildlife and people affected, is inspiring.

Thankfully no people were lost in the fires, and more homes were saved than lost. Over 400 fire fighters worked around the clock to get the fires under control. And they did! Although the destruction is evident in the photographs and footage from the scenes, you can also see the amazing results that these people achieved. Without the volunteers the devastation would have been complete. What an astounding job they did!

It really got me thinking about the power of purpose in achieving amazing results.

Surely, to be a volunteer you must have a strong sense of purpose.   There isn’t a paycheck at the end of the week to motivate you to action. There isn’t even a pat on the back generally. These amazing volunteer fire fighters, wildlife warriors, and other amazing environmental advocates, have generally been fighting fires, saving the wilderness and helping people for years and years without the widespread thanks that we have seen in recent weeks.

The work is sometimes so difficult that even paying someone wouldn’t get them there, unless they had the purpose and the passion for the job. Yet, many people still volunteer their time, energies and lives to fighting the good fight.

According to Volunteering Australia, in 2010, 6.1 million people (36%) of the Australian population aged 18 years and over participated in voluntary work. Employed people were more likely to be volunteers than unemployed, and people living in rural communities were more likely to be volunteers than people living in cities.   You can click here to find out more about volunteering in Australia.

Maybe its because I’m a workforce nerd but I find these statistics fascinating. We have 41% of the paid workforce also volunteering!   I wonder if they have the same sense of purpose in their paid work as they do in their unpaid work?

Sadly, many times the answer is no.

I’ve spoken to people who volunteer and they say things like “volunteering in the area I’m passionate about gives me a sense of purpose that I don’t get elsewhere,” “being part of something bigger is important to me,” and “my job just pays the bills, my real life is my volunteering.” Imagine if we could create workplaces that generated the same kind of dedication that volunteering apparently does.

I’m a volunteer myself through the Australian HR Institute, but somehow I’ve never seen it the same.   I see the correlations though because I’m extraordinarily passionate about the HR profession. I see it as my purpose to further the reputation and reach of the profession and therefore give my time, energy and passions willingly. So purpose and passion guides me to do the work I love.

Perhaps that’s the point. Purpose and passion will guide you to seek out paid work in an area you are passionate about and if your passion is strong you’ll do the work even if you are not paid.

Early in my career I would be flippant about work and say “I wouldn’t be here if you didn’t pay me.” Well given that I volunteer my time and effort for AHRI and I sit and write blogs about leadership and the workforce… I guess that’s not exactly true…. whoops…

Find your purpose and passion in your job and if not, volunteer it… help others and give what you can to the world. You and the world will appreciate it.

And to all of the volunteers who contributed their time, passion and purpose to helping in the Adelaide Fires I salute you. You are true heroes.

And to the many people who give their time daily to supporting our community without pay, in the many and varied ways that volunteers do… I thank you.

For more information about volunteering in Oz, here are a few sites.

Volunteering SA & NT

Volunteering Australia

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you volunteer or serve your purpose and passion.

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