Ordinary students doing extraordinary acts – Sophie Simons

Victoria House students are heavily involved in Student Volunteer Week this year. With a hall motto of, “friendship, community, success,” Victoria House embodies exactly what students volunteering is.

Each floor on their hall chose a specific organization to fundraise and volunteer for. The organisations vary from the Christchurch Victims Fund, Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust, Youthline/Lifeline and SPCA. I met with Kalea from yellow floor who is helping to fundraise for the SPCA fund. Their floor made bundles to raffle off for the cause and sharing a givealittle page with the purpose of helping the SPCA cope with demand. The idea to fundraise for the SPCA came from their RA’s personal connection with volunteering for the SPCA and out of their collective obsession for cats. Kalea spoke of the short time that was given to arrange and organise the volunteering pursuits but of the huge passion and effort that went into the fundraiser. She further helped to give a picture of the hundreds of dollars that has been donated to their pursuits. 

Relay For Life – Sophie Svenson

Relay for life is an event which brings communities together all over New Zealand. There is a collaborative aim of those involved, of celebrating cancer survivors, carers and remembering those who have lost their battle with cancer. Relay for life is a great event as it involves and attracts primarily thousands of school age students, allowing them to band together and raise awareness and funds for the Cancer Society of New Zealand.

In 2016 I took part in Relay For Life, not only was this an enjoyable activity to complete with friends, walking or running around a track it was also a very emotional time among many. This is one of the few moments in life where I was taken aback, seeing first-hand the sheer amount of people who have been affected in some way, shape or form by cancer. Being in such an environment, it was wonderful to see the support and contribution from so many people, doing what they could to make Relay for Life the best it can be. Therefore this will forever be an unforgettable experience, and has prompted me into doing more in the way of volunteering in my community.

Fringe Spirit – Sophie Simons

New Zealand’s Fringe Festival is an annual performing arts festival throughout March which caters to all  audiences. This season was the first time that Fringe offered a volunteer programme to people of all ages and backgrounds. As a box office volunteer, I spent my evenings with the purpose of welcoming people, selling tickets and promoting Fringe. This experience was enlightening in providing a new insight into the Performing Arts community within New Zealand specifically the supportive community within Wellington. I built connections from all art forms and learned from others’ experiences to inform my view of the festival.

Overall, the Fringe volunteering experience is vital for anyone with a passion for the Performing Arts and anyone wanting to learn more about the Performing Arts field. The month I spent volunteering there has definitely informed my career perspective and has changed my life. Volunteering for the Fringe Festival overall opened up my eyes to the idea of theatre and how the arts can be a sustainable career path.

STUDENT ACTIVITY: RED CROSS JOURNEY

What’s it like to be a disaster support volunteer for the Red Cross in a country like Tonga or Myanmar? The Red Cross Journey is an interactive online platform that allows you to choose one of two journeys to follow and help the Red Cross at the same time.

The Red Cross says: “Put your students’ energy to a good cause. They can step up and get active as we head into winter – and do their bit to help vulnerable people both at home and overseas.
Join Red Cross Journey and choose to follow either the journey of a former refugee fleeing to safety, or one of our disaster support volunteers as they train and respond to emergencies around New Zealand. Walk or run laps around the school field to cover the distance and learn about the challenges, fears and joys along the way. And by fundraising over the month, students will be joining the Red Cross family of good people doing good things, helping people in your community and around the world.”
WHEN: 8 May – 8 June 2017
WHERE: Wherever it suits the students – walking or running around the school field, the cross country route, PE sessions, sports trainings and games…all can count towards the distance.
HOW: Registrations open online 20 April 2017. Register your class as a team. Then, from 8 May, start counting the steps or recording the distance and have fun fundraising. And how about challenging another class or school to add to the fun?!

Download the PDF flyer for schools

“…UNBEKNOWNST TO THEM, IT IS THOSE SENTIMENTS THAT DRIVES OUR PASSION TO BE VOLUNTEERS.”

Lagi Tuimavave volunteers for Community Law of Wellington and Hutt Valley.  She studies Law at Victoria University of Wellington.

What do you like most about volunteering for Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley?
I volunteer in the Wellington office and what I love most is being able to give back to people in the community and providing a service that makes a difference in their lives.

The client is the center of attention and the central focus is on alleviating the pressures they are under by helping them with the tools that I have. Sometimes the advice might not necessarily be a legal one, it can be a practical one. It is really rewarding when our clients pour their hearts out with gratitude because of the time and free service we’ve given them. but unbeknownst to them, it is those sentiments that drives our passion to be volunteers.What does a typical day as volunteer at Community Law look like?

I volunteer on Thursday nights which is Māori Kaupapa Night. If I am the shift leader I turn up at 5 p.m. and prepare sign up sheets because we usually get a significant amount of clients. I greet our clients on their way in and explain to them what they have to do with the sheet. They fill it in and return it to me at the desk. I ensure that I conflict check everything to prevent giving advice to both parties to a dispute. It is on a first-in first-served basis.

As I am a student volunteer and a lawyer in training, I have a great mentor to assist me when giving legal advice. Before heading into the interviewing room, I always introduce myself and my mentor to the client because it is important to make that connection immediately. We then head into the room, hear the issues and give advice. There’s always three lawyers and two student volunteers during the night plus a supervisor, so among us, we try and see all the clients. Most of us leave at just before 7.30 p.m.

What is one of your proudest moments as a volunteer?

I am full Samoan and when we get clients of Pacific Island descent, it is easier for me to identify nerves and reservations among them. I would completely understand if I was in their position because getting free legal advice is unheard of. However I use my identity and language to build rapport and connect with all our clients (not exclusive to Pacific Islanders) because I understand what it is like to be in a disadvantaged position and in need of help. It’s incredible to see the contrast in people when you brief them about confidentiality and how often they can return to get more free legal advice. I love the fact that there is so much diversity in our clients coupled with the fact that our volunteers have the best interests of our clients at heart.

“I ALSO LIKE TO THINK MY ENTHUSIASM FOR CONSERVATION WORK IS NOT ONLY ANNOYING BUT CONTAGIOUS AS WELL.”

Connor Wallace’s volunteering began five years ago with the Motutapu Restoration Trust, an organisation committed to revitalising both the natural and cultural landscape of the Hauraki Gulf island. He was a junior member of Forest & Bird through primary school and has recently become more active with Forest & Bird as a North Shore Committee member and founding committee member of Forest & Bird Youth.
What do you like most about volunteering for Forest & Bird and the Motutapu Restoration Trust?
The thing I like most about my involvement with them is the way in which both organisations provide perfect opportunities for me to learn from active conservationists – they tend to be the type of people that will help you if you ask.

What is your proudest moment as a volunteer?
The first rat caught by a Goodnature Trap that I had installed with support of the Upper Harbour Local Board was a very proud moment but topping even that was the phone call letting me know that I was to receive Forest & Bird’s Te Kaiārahi Rangatahi o te Taiao Youth Award for 2016.
What are some of the methods you use to encourage people to become “citizen scientists”?
To encourage people to step up as citizen scientists I make use of Facebook and my own website (www.enviroyouth.com) to publicise volunteering opportunities, as I know this an effective way to communicate with fellow teenagers. I also like to think my enthusiasm for conservation work is not only annoying but contagious as well.
***