Sharing laughs, leadership and life skills

My name is Jamie Gibbens. I am 21 and am originally from Hokitika, where I did Guiding as a girl from Pippins, which is for five- and six-year-olds, right through to Rangers, which is for 12- to 17-year-olds. I moved to Christchurch in 2016 to attend university and become a primary teacher. I graduated last year, and this year started my Masters of Education.

I’m leading a group of Brownies, who are aged between seven and nine. I teach them new skills, games, what they can do in their community, and about other cultures around the world. One thing that has stood out is seeing the girls’ enthusiasm towards learning new things. Seeing them enjoy the activities I enjoyed when I was a Brownie myself is also pretty cool.

What I love about empowering girls and young women is encouraging them to use their new skills for initiatives such as community action, and developing their confidence and leadership skills.

One of my favourite memories from my Brownie group here in Christchurch was seeing the confidence development in one of my girls. She got really nervous reading her mihi to the group one night and broke down a bit — but a year later, the same girl not only played the flute in our talent show in front of all the group, plus their family members (a much bigger group!), but she won first place! When I asked her to tell the group about her visit to the Guides, I couldn’t stop her talking.

We often tell jokes and act silly sometimes at Brownies, so there is usually a lot of laughs, which is all part of the fun!

Jamie Gibbens
Girl Guiding New Zealand

Volunteering might not lead to pirate’s treasure — but there are plenty of other rewards

My name is Hannah, a born and bred Southlander and teacher aide. Being a volunteer for GirlGuiding is an incredible way to continue learning and give back to the community. The girls are hilarious — they constantly make me laugh, but also help me to see things in a completely different way, which keeps me learning. I love being a role model for the girls, teaching them valuable life skills, as well as teamwork and leadership skills. The GirlGuiding Programme is amazing and it’s super easy to follow and implement. You are provided with all the training to develop the skills you need.

Last term we introduced the girls to a part of Southland that they had never seen before and explored a wild cave system. The caves were cool, dark and mysterious, and although we didn’t find a pirate’s treasure or even a hibernating bear, the girls (and grown ups alike!) saw and experienced things that stimulated their imaginations and curiosity about the natural world. The girls haven’t stopped talking about the experience since, and I imagine it will be something everyone will remember for a long time.

What I found to be biggest reward about volunteering is it enables you to make a difference in the lives of others, gain confidence and self esteem, feel valued and part of a team, while gaining new skills, knowledge and experiences. The decision to volunteer has been a great one!

Hannah Ralston

Girl Guiding New Zealand

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 

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.

Kaitiakitanga in Action – Students Strike for a Safe Climate Future

School students all across the country are striking to urge action on climate change. Volunteering New Zealand interviewed two organisers of the strikes.

On March 15th, school students across the nation will strike for climate action. They are supported by parents, teachers, environmental researchers and the Children’s Commissioner.

Young people around the world are showing incredible leadership on the issue of climate change. The strike is an example of active citizenship, and a demonstration that young people are prepared to face up to the defining issue of their generation.

The strikes take place in the lead up to Student Volunteer Week. Our focus this year is Kaitiakitanga, the guardianship of our environment. Student volunteers are instrumental to this guardianship, and are at the forefront of advocating for environmental protection and carbon neutrality. Student Volunteer Week is an opportunity to celebrate student volunteering and encourage more opportunities to join the volunteering movement. The students striking this week, just like other young environmental volunteers across the nation, exemplify Kaitiakitanga in action. Find out how to get involved in Student Volunteer Week here.

We reached out to two organisers of the strikes, Sophie Handford, and Molly Doyle, to share their perspectives on the strike, kaitiakitanga, and how to create positive change. We hope their words can offer support motivation to other young people working to ensure a healthy and livable planet.

Sophie Handford – National Coordinator

Q What motivated you to organise these strikes?

I want a safe and secure future for not only my generation but generations to come. I think that we have a real chance here to take control of the conversation around our future. We are the ones who will inherit this earth. We deserve to have a say about the kind of future we have, which at this stage could be non-existent unless we stand up and show the politicians how important this is to us

Q Why is kaitiakitanga important to you?

I think the word kaitiakitanga represents something so crucial. So often, I feel like we fall into the trap of thinking this earth is ‘ours’ and we fail to understand the role we must play in our relationship with the earth. We must act as its guardian so we can give others the opportunity to do the same.

Q What advidce could you give to other students trying to make a positive impact?

The advice I would give is to take that first step! Once you get started, it becomes so much easier. There will be roadblocks along the way that you’ll encounter but envisage the positive impact you want to have and just keep that front of mind. Don’t give up!

Molly Doyle, National Committee Member

Q What motivated you to organise these strikes?

Our earth is precious – it’s our home. And I want to retain its beauty. I want to know the oceans are clean without plastic. I want to know the air we breathe is not polluted.

And I want it to stay beautiful for future generations. These strikes are the start of our generations move to a cleaner more sustainable future.

We have the ability to educate our generation about the impacts of climate change. We have the ability to show higher levels of power that we do care, and we value our environment. We have the chance to get together to make a positive impact.

Q Why is kaitiakitanga important to you?

Growing up in such a beautiful country I’ve learned that I am always appreciative of my natural surroundings. I see great value in looking after what we currently have. No matter where you are in the world you have a given responsibility to keep the environment clean. I can’t emphasize how important kaitiakitanga should be for these living generations. We are currently walking blind eye into a future that doesn’t hold the environmental capability of looking after us. We need to reverse that conception of the future, and know that we do care, and we will demonstrate everything in our power to be the change we want to see.

Q What advidce could you give to other students trying to make a positive impact?

My advice would have to be the change you want to see. I don’t see a positive future if people are still relying on others to make the difference. You really have to gain consciousness for your surroundings and seek to learn the impacts of your current actions.

We have the ability to make this change, so go out and do it!

University and Tertiary Sport NZ – Liam’s Bio

Liam Hurst is a Massey University Bachelor of Sport and Exercise graduate. Much of Liam’s volunteering activity stems from his passion for sport and conservation. At high school, Liam began helping the Kiwi Conservation Club, planning trips and activities for children and family groups in the outdoors. Sporting-wise his management and organisation skills have been used in jobs as varied as marshalling and traffic control to timekeeping, social media planning, volunteer recruitment and coaching. Much of his work has been for high schools competing in national secondary schools tournaments and his university. His involvement has benefitted road cycling, adventure racing, volleyball and football to name a few sports.


As a high school student what made you put your hand up to get involved in conservation causes?

My family had a large influence on my participation in conservation. When I was young I spent a lot of time in the outdoors and regularly went tramping and camping which helped to develop my passion for the environment and conservation.

What is your favourite volunteer activity and why?

I love volunteering at sport events. Especially helping out at secondary school competitions, in particular, adventure racing. I get a buzz out of being able to coach and guide people to be able to map read, abseil, kayak, mountain bike or anything else that they need.

What’s your favourite organisation that you have volunteered for and why?

Cycling New Zealand. As a part of my university degree, I had a placement helping organise the 50th anniversary of the NZ Schools Road Cycling Champs. I had a major role in the competition and was able to really immerse myself in the management of the event. I learnt a lot about the practical delivery of my event which directly related to my degree.

So, why give up so much of your free time to enable sporting events for others? What’s in it for you?

The satisfaction of knowing you helped out at an event or competition is what really drives me. I enjoy being able to help people accomplish their goals and if that makes them happy, then I’m happy!

When it’s wet or cold or you face event issues or team crises, do you wish you had said no to helping? What fuels you?

It’s very rare for everything to go to plan, so when things go wrong you just have to take a deep breath and remind yourself that bad things don’t last forever. I never really feel like I should’ve said no but that’s not to say I haven’t had my fair share of difficult situations. Looking back on them I realise that they were great learning points and have enabled me to develop myself to be a better, more experienced person.

Can you recall and describe a moment where you thought ‘this is all totally worth it’?

Guiding junior teams in adventure races is extremely rewarding. Not only because they are able to accomplish something amazing by completing a race, but also because of the landscape, views and memories that you get to experience during a race. There was one race where we made it up onto the top of a mountain range and the view was incredible. It’s times like these that remind you why you do it.

If you were to pitch the skills you’ve learned through volunteering to a potential employer what would you say?

I have learned a lot through volunteering. Communication skills, time management, sponsorship proposals, safety planning, people management, teamwork, leadership. The list goes on! 

This is a chance to communicate with people around NZ who perhaps haven’t volunteered before – what is your takeaway message for them?

Honestly, just do it. Find a sport or event that interests you, maybe grab a few friends and sign up! You won’t regret helping other people and you never know what you’ll get out of it. You’ll meet new people, learn new skills, and it looks great on your CV!