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Plunket and BestStart celebrates World Volunteer Day

06 Dec 2018

Plunket and BestStart celebrates World Volunteer Day

By BestStart Deputy CEO Fiona Hughes

This week Plunket celebrated International Volunteers Day, acknowledging some of their incredible volunteers in which (right) Kay Connor of Parnell was honoured as the Upper North’s Volunteer of the Year. 

I often wonder what our society would be like without Plunket. We’re so lucky to have it, few countries have such a nation-wide, community-based focus on babies and pre-schoolers.

The fact we have Plunket means better outcomes for our children. BestStart Educare is a Star Partner of Plunket, and we’re on the same page when it comes to the value of funding the early years. The First 1000 Days of life will shape what kind of grown-up a child will turn into. It’s not about genes, or alphabets, or numbers or colours, it’s about love and interaction. It’s about free play, a safe, stable environment, good nutrition and access to healthcare. 

At BestStart, we know from research that emotional, nutrition and exercise patterns formed in early childhood are strongly associated with a child’s life outcomes. Emotional skills such as the ability to:

  • Manage emotions and impulses 
  • Solve problems 
  • Take initiative 
  • Be flexible 
  • Work well in groups 
  • Persevere and be resilient 
  • Demonstrate empathy

These all make an enormous impact on a child’s life. A 20-year study in the US examined the emotional and resilience skills of 800 pre-schoolers and followed them until age 25. For every one-point increase in children’s emotional and resilience skills scores in the under 5 years bracket, they were:

54 percent more likely to earn a high school diploma 
Twice as likely to attain a college degree 
46 percent more likely to have a full-time job at age 25 

On the other hand, for a one-point decrease in children’s emotional resilience scores, there was a: 

64 percent higher chance of spending time in juvenile detention 
67 percent higher chance of being arrested by early adulthood 
82 percent higher chance of being in or joining a waiting list for public housing

The more love, care and interaction babies experience in their first 1000 days of life, the more developed their brains will be. 

In BestStart, we often lament the lack of recognition of the importance of this time for children. Resources for essential preschool services often falls short, despite research that shows that the foundations of adult life are built in early childhood.

Volunteers are the people who step in at those shortfalls, striving to ensure our children are cared for, safe and have access to health care and resources. Volunteers ensure that parents have the support networks so they can give their best to their children.

We believe at the centre of every healthy community, the volunteers are the unsung heroes. 

The work volunteers do for no financial gain improves children’s lives and their life outcomes, and that makes us a safer, more caring, kinder society.