Volunteering for a change – chatting advocacy with Isabella Leniham-Ikin

An interview with Isabella Lenihan-Ikin

What volunteering have you done as part of the Victoria University of Wellington Feminist Law Society?

I am the vice president of the VUW Feminist Law Society, which is a voluntary role in of itself. The organisation is an advocacy and campaigning organisation, based out of the Law School. We hope to create an alternative social space for like-minded people, including those who don’t necessarily feel included in Law School culture, by hosting speaker events, catch-ups, fundraising events and advocacy pathways.

What has been the best part about volunteering for the VUWFLS?

One of the highlights for me this year is that I was involved in setting up a VUWFLS team which participated in ‘Run for Help’ for  Wellington Sexual Abuse Help Foundation. Through several fundraising channels, we raised just under $3000, which goes towards funding essential counselling for survivors of sexual abuse and their whānau.

What made you want to volunteer for VUWFLS?

I think what makes me want to volunteer is the desire to work for organisations, like VUWFLS, that are challenging structural oppression. The law profession (including law school) is an exclusive environment, and we have to work hard, to not only make the law more accessible, but also the profession that supports it.

Any future volunteering aspirations?

Volunteering, and being involved in grassroots organisations has been a feature of my life for a long time (since I was in primary school, so close to 20 years ago!!). I don’t have any specific volunteering aspirations, but I definitely want to continue being involved in community organisations, in a voluntary capacity.

The Winter Project – student-led clothing collection charity

Initially started in 2015 for the Xero Drawingboard Challenge, Winter Project started within the local community and has grown across the Wellington region. The Winter Project is a is student-led at Samuel Marsden College in Wellington who collect clothing items for delivery to partner low decile schools and “Wellingtonians in need.” They are supported by their school, parents, the local community and their partnership with ANZ but impress upon the importance of the organisation being student-led. They have a weekly meeting of an hour and spend further time on independent work for the charity. Currently there are 6 members that are year 13 and 5 members that are year 11 who will begin to run the charity from next year. The students promote their own social media and have been featured by Matilda Rice and Hannah Laity.

Once the original members left school the new leadership group faced challenges. The year thirteens are now mentoring the year eleven members for succession planning, so that the year eleven girls can continue to grow the charity.

Since these challenges the group has grown significantly and now has nine dropboxes for clothes around Wellington and are looking to expand. They held a clothing drive and exceeded their goal of 2000 clothing items and have even higher goals for this year. The students have significant ideas for expansion from wanting to increase the number of boxes available to further developing their social media, further fundraising to start purchasing clothes, looking at donating to specific communities and creating new partnerships with various organisations both local and national organisations. Their overall goal would be to become nationwide.

Students from Samuel Marsden School who are part of The Winter Project

Doing your part on the big issues can help you find hope

After meeting the awesome Dunedin Wildlife Hospital trustees at the Trustpower volunteering awards at the weekend, we caught up with Penny Jacks, President of the Wildlife Hospital Students’ Association in Dunedin about her volunteering experience.

What does Kaitiakitanga mean to you Penny?

It is the responsibility we all have to preserve our natural resources so that they continue to be present in the future.

What role does Kaitiakitanga play in your life?

Kaitiakitanga has a strong significance in my life, from what I eat to how I choose to spend my time. I don’t want the state of the climate and global biodiversity to continue to diminish so I try to reduce my negative impact any way I can. 

Why do you volunteer?

I volunteer because I want to take action against the issues our world is facing. We can spend too long dwelling on the negative changes in our world, doing your part to battle against these issues can help you find hope.

What volunteering do you do?

I am the president of the Wildlife Hospital Students’ Association in Dunedin. We plan and run events to raise awareness and funds for the Wildlife Hospital in Dunedin, from street appeals to pub quizzes. The Wildlife Hospital is a specialist hospital in Dunedin dedicated to the treatment of New Zealand wildlife. They have done amazing work for many endangered and critically endangered animals, including the yellow-eyed penguins and the kakapo. All the money that we raise goes directly to the hospital to help these little guys out.

What do you get out of volunteering?

I get a great kick out of volunteering both from contributing to a cause that at times has seemed hopeless, as well as being surrounded by positive people.

What would you like to see change in volunteering?

More young people would benefit from getting involved in volunteering. I believe all young people should regularly volunteer their time in some way as it is a chance to discover new perspectives, meet people from all walks of life and you will come away from it feeling positive.

What are your hopes for the future?

I hope to spend my life contributing to the conservation of our natural world. I hope to encourage others to take actions to reduce their impact on the natural environment and to spread kindness.  

Some of the executive members of the Wildlife Hospital Students Association at the UniCrew Student Volunteer Fair today. From the left: Tom Nordmeier, Amirah Osama and Penny Jacks