The Perks of being a VOLUNTEER with ABPI- A Personal Perspective
The first time when we attended the meeting to do the handing-taking over of the ABPI in November last year, one of the former executive members said that she has been waiting for this day to hand over and the day has finally come. I didn’t understand the deeper meaning of her words then but now I do. I can now relate very well why she took a sigh of relief and uttered those fainted words.
Well let me begin by introducing the readers to the Association of the Bhutanese in Perth Incorporated-most commonly or famously or infamously known as ABPI. With the increasing rise of Bhutanese in Perth, WA, our well-intentioned predecessors initiated the formation of an association to cater to the needs of the Bhutanese Community. These founders were far sighted. They knew exactly what kind of social ills and issues that Bhutanese would go though as a community. Thanks to all the former executive members who sacrificed their time and service and created what we see todays ABPI.
And in April 2014 ABPI bearing registration number A101769E got incorporated under the Associations Incorporation Act of 1987, Western Australia. ABPI, thus, functions with the Constitutions and Rules and Regulations that has been framed according to legal requirement of the Associations Incorporation Act of 1987 and revised as per the Associations Incorporation Act of 2015.
ABPI has come a long way since then and it is still run and managed by a group of volunteers in the name of Executive Team with various title such as President, General Secretary, Treasurer, Event Coordinator, Web Administrator, Area Coordinators and so on. ABPI doesn’t have any funding on its own and is sustained through the registration fees of its members, which is only AUD 20 annually, and AUD 30 Biennial.
So how does these executive members work?
In a place like Australia where time is very precious, this group of individuals takes time out to provide the pro bono voluntary services to the community members. I personally took up these voluntary services thinking that serving our Bhutanese anywhere would be as good as serving our King, Country and the People-our Tsa-Wa-Sum. These groups of people are no different from the rest of the Bhutanese who are here in Australia. We go through the same work routine, odd working hours, stress of studies, time management and every thing that others experience. The only difference is that these set of people have come forward to go an extra mile and serve the community. We get calls at odd hours asking for support, which we heartily attend to. Sometimes we need to take leave from our paid jobs to attend the community meetings or to attend to official matters with the government or other agencies. Most time we not only end up sacrificing our time and energy but we end up spending from our own pockets. And most time from my own personal experience is that I end up staying late hours doing paper works and official correspondences thereby ending up in lack of proper sleep. The time that we manage to pull out between the works should actually be our resting time, which we have to spend on doing public free services.
Let me give you an example of a fund drive that we do which might seem like a very simple activity in the eyes of the outsiders. Everything needs a coordinated effort. Firstly, the issue has to come to the notice of the executive team who takes the issue up for discussions in the group. Since all of us work at different time, we have to wait for the response from each other although we always make an effort to use every single free time we get to respond in the group. We need to get the background details of the individuals against whose name we are raising the fund. We feel it is our moral responsibility and the people’s right to get the right and correct information so that they can make informed decision while doing public donations. In order to get the right information, we need to make a lot of visit to the individual person whether he/she is in the hospital or at home. Or we even end up having constant discussions with the relatives if any. Since ABPI is an institution, we are liable for auditing and we should be held responsible for everything we do. So proper documentation and crosschecking have to be duly followed. Once the public donations start pouring in we need to report it to the public every day to maintain transparency. All these need to be done through a coordinated effort involving all the volunteers. This is just once case scenario. Some of the visible things that people see ABPI doing must be just the public fund raising. There are so many supports the volunteers provide behind the curtain. Like many people ask for recommendation letters to apply for jobs here, to get loan in Bhutan, to rent a house, to process a visa and ABPI has been diligently providing all these services to people on time. Most times we end up hours on phone attending to people’s need. Many ask for legal advices, which even we are not proficient with and we go out of the way to find out these services for our people and recommend to them accordingly. We also attend to many relationship cases and provided due support. Especially this year has been very challenging with the impact of COVID 19 on our Bhutanese Community. Personally I got down with severe headache for a month, chronic erosive gastritis, anxiety and stress that nearly led me into depression.
So what exactly are the perks of being a volunteer with ABPI? Check out the following list:
- Lots of personal sacrifices, stress, anxiety and could even lead to depression.
- Public criticism- there are certain group of people who always criticizes what the ABPI does thereby putting more pressure and stress on the volunteers and demoralizing the spirit of voluntarism.
- Expenditure from your own pockets- you not only sacrifice your time and energy but you also end up spending from your own pockets all the time.
- Lots of arguments and debates within the executive team because we aim towards doing the right things and providing the right services.
- Grievances from individuals who feel ignored.
- Some rude individuals who demand services as if they pay us.
- Lots of opinions from some so called learned people in the community.
- Harassment and bullying over phone from some aggressive, arrogant and pushy people. Lately, some of our humble volunteers have been experiencing bullying from such people putting our volunteers under tremendous stress and pressure.
What would be the consequences?
Our predecessors have put in a lot of effort to form the association and our volunteers in the past have brought the association to what it is now. It is important for the general Bhutanese populace in Perth to know how the association is run and be appreciative of the hard works and sacrifices put in by the volunteers. If some opinionated individuals and groups keep criticizing the works of the volunteers, there will come a day ABPI will have no volunteers to run the association. This will have a huge negative impact on the general Bhutanese community. This could be also one of the main reasons why ABPI could not be strengthened. Volunteers need support from the general public to enhance and strengthen the association. It has to be done in conjunction with each other. Some of our former volunteers who have been in the same shoes empathize with the volunteers when we get attacked on social media while on the other hands there also seem to be some watching over us like an eagle and picking faults on everything that we do.
The ABPI is for the Bhutanese by the Bhutanese so we should all be in it together supporting each other, pulling each other up in a foreign land, maintain our close knit bonding, our Tha-Dhamtsi and Lay-Jumdrey to the Tsa-Wa-Sum and be a pillar for each other. Bhutanese in general have always been applauded for our solidarity and we should not let anything break that in us.
This post is shared with the intention to create awareness to all fellow Bhutanese on how the association is run so that no body dares to say ABPI executives rules the people.
DISCLAIMER: This blog is a personal page and all views are Author’s own and not related to official stand or position. The views does not represent ABPI’s stand.