Over the Queen's Birthday long weekend, I spent five days working at the annual Sheep Dog Trials hosted by my local Show Society. Why? Because I'm one of the many committee members who work hard to make the event successful. And although I was exhausted at the end of it, I enjoyed every second of it.
Does this intro sound familiar? It should, because I started off my 'Volunteering: Why I Love It' post from a year ago tomorrow the exact same way. After the exhausting five days I had last week (six if you count the hectic day of final preparations before everything kicked off), the idea for this blog post hit me and I knew I had to share my thoughts with the world in the hopes that someone, just one person, would be inspired to get involved.
So firstly, let me give you a little background on how I got involved with my local show society in the first place. I live in a small rural town in New South Wales, not far from the Victorian border. My Shire Council is made up of four towns that are only twenty minutes away from one another, so it's really easy to visit other towns and get involved. Growing up, I would always enter art, cooking and flowers into the Show of the town I reside in, and the one just twenty minutes west (where I ended up going to High School and joining their Show Society). I loved going to the Show on Sunday and seeing how my entries did in the pavilion, looking at all the animals, and getting a showbag, fairyfloss and a dagwood dog (corndog, plutopup - whatever you want to call it). I'm not one who is big on rides, but you can bet that I spent a fortune on the clowns to try and win the big prizes, which of course never happened but I definitely walked away with a lot of cheap toys that lasted about two days.
In 2008, my dad became President of the Show Society. He'd always been involved with the show, particularly with the poultry section, and I'd usually spend the first few hours on the Sunday of the Show watching people enter their chooks and the judge pick which ones were the best. At the AGM, they were unable to find a Secretary, so dad roped my mum into the role. I don't know if she was just meant to be a quick fill until someone else stepped forward the following year, but ten years later she's still in the secretary's chair because she's done such a fantastic job over the last decade.
Initially, I was just helping mum a little with the secretary stuff. It was really just great to go behind the scenes of the Show and see how it worked after having spent my whole life as an exhibitor. As I got older, I could get more involved, helping out in the Show Office in the lead up to the show and on Show Day. And soon, I was a member of the committee, attending monthly meetings, starting social media accounts, creating a website, elected Chief Pavilion Steward, becoming the society photographer, creating a history archive, writing a history book and essentially becoming the assistant secretary. Now that I'm an adult, mum, and the rest of the committee, can rely on me so much more to know and do things. Usually, my mum will take a week off work to run the Show Office, but last year, with new people starting in her office, she wasn't able to take the time off. So it was left to me to take the reigns, which was fine as I already had so much experience in the Show Office. A couple of the committee members were on hand to help as the week went on, but it was really all up to me. I admit, I was a little nervous and anxious about it all, but everything turned out fine in the end.
Being involved with the Show Society has given me so much. Apart from the satisfaction of all our hard work paying off as people enjoy Show Day, I've definitely grown in confidence. As a child, I was really shy. I wouldn't say boo to people, even those who I had previously met. To this day, I still do get a bit anxious about meeting new people, especially in situations where I don't know what to expect. But, being in a role where I'm connecting with people, helping them, answering questions or just something simple as taking their money for membership, I thrive. I'm confident about my role and talking to people. And it's not just the general public. Because of my knowledge and how involved I am in the administration, other members of the committee have confidence in me knowing how something is done, where things are or who to contact. Having confidence in yourself in one thing, but knowing that others have confidence in your abilities is another thing altogether.
Confidence isn't the only life skill I've gained from my involvement - customer service, working as part of a team, working independently, being a leader, social media and web admin (because all this came before my own social media involvement and growth), face-to-face and phone contact (although I'm still terrible at answering my own phone), event management and so much more. Growing up in this environment has helped me so much personally, as well as adding some great points to my resume. And the biggest plus is meeting so many new people and making some great friends.
My Show Society is super lucky, we've got a great team of committee members and volunteers who give up their time to help organise and run the annual show, plus the supplementary events of a poultry auction, sheep dog trials and rose show. Sadly, this isn't the case for many Shows throughout New South Wales and Victoria (and possibly elsewhere in Australia). In the past few years, many Shows have had to be cancelled due to the lack of volunteers, which is really sad. A few Shows have been able to bounce-back after a year or two break, but that's not always the case. Like with many community organisations, once those who have been heavily involved decide to step down because there's no other help, it can be difficult for them to reform down the track.
This is where you come in.
If you live in a town or area that has a Show Society, I really urge you to try and get involved. Of course, this isn't everyone's cup of tea, but if you are interested in lending a hand, then please do reach out. You don't have to get as heavily involved as I have. Some people just volunteers in the lead up to the Show to help set up, while others, like myself, do get more involved behind the scenes. It's all about what interests you, the time you have to spare, and where you feel like you can help. It may turn out that volunteering with your local Show Society isn't for you, but at least you've given it a go, and that's just as important. Volunteering isn't just good for the community group you're involved in, it's also good for you. While it's amazing to be able to be create an event that the whole community and district can enjoy, it's the connections and skills you gain that the the most important.
As someone who loves volunteering, it's hard to understand why some people just don't want to do it, but then expect these things to just happen. A friend, who I met through the Show Society, has a really great motto: if you want to have a valid voice in your community then get involved and volunteer. It's not that hard. It doesn't need to take up heaps of your time. But if you've got an hour or two to spare, then volunteer. Without volunteers, we wouldn't have a lot of things in our communities, and the Show Society is one of them. I've loved my experience so far, and I know I'm going to continue being involved for years to come.
So if you love attending your local Show, want to lend a hand or have something great to offer, then don't hesitate to get in touch with your local Show Society about how you can get involved. It's sad to see so many Shows become cancelled due to the lack of volunteers, so make sure that doesn't happen in your community. Annual Shows are fantastic events for communities, both big and small, and it's something we can't lose.
If you don't have a Show Society in your area, then look at the other community groups you can get involved in! Maybe the Show Society isn't something that interests you, but maybe there is a community group or organisation that is right up your ally. They aren't going to turn away people who are eager or interested in volunteering, so step forward and put your hand up, because it could be the best decision of your life.
If you're interested in knowing more about my volunteer experiences, then please feel free to comment below or message me via any of my social media pages. I'm going to link below to some useful Australian websites where you can learn more about Show Societies across the country. I hope this post has inspired you to get involved in your community, whether it be with the Show Society, or another community organisation.
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