Community Scoop

Whiria te tangata – weaving the people together

michelle-kitneyMichelle Kitney

Director of Communications and Sector Development | Volunteering New Zealand

This week, 16-22 June people, communities and organisations throughout Aotearoa have collaborated and connected to celebrate National Volunteer Week (NVW).

When we volunteer our time we send a message about what is important in our communities. This NVW we celebrate the diversity of volunteers and volunteering, Mahi Aroha and social action in Aotearoa.

Launch of volunteer stories map

To celebrate the theme of Whiria te tangata – weaving the people together, Volunteering New Zealand (VNZ) has launched an interactive map of volunteer stories from across Aotearoa.

This map is filled with stories from volunteers throughout Aotearoa, New Zealand and reflects the NVW 2019 theme “Whiria te tangata – weaving the people together”. Through it we celebrate everyone who volunteers in times of crisis, in times of healing and everyone who makes time and space to walk alongside others.

Extracts from VNZ’s Volunteer Stories Map

Ta’ase Vaoga, ActionStation, Canterbury

For Ta’ase Vaoga, volunteering is just another way to help make a difference in the world. “Like many people, I’ve always tried to do work that matters,” she says. “Whether it’s paid or voluntary, I look for roles which align with my own values and where I think my skills can really help an organisation.” Ta’ase started volunteering with JustSpeak, an organisation that campaigns on criminal justice issues. This sparked a passion for campaigning, and soon, Ta’ase was connected with ActionStation, a multi-issue campaigning organisation. She is now co-Chair of the Board, a role that is both rewarding and challenging. “I’m learning new things every day and getting used to the flow of things so I can grow to be a more effective co-Chair. And it’s not without its challenges! From learning how to read balance sheets to insights into how a progressive campaigning organisation operates, I’m learning from people with international campaigning and governance experience.”

Read more of Ta’ase’s story

Shashi Kariyawasam volunteers through Volunteer Northland

When Shashi Kariyawasam came to New Zealand from Sri Lanka in 2018, she’d never done any volunteering. That soon changed when she joined Volunteering Northland.

“I worked as a coordinator at the Special Olympics, so I would go to trainings and practices and help cheer up the athletes and help them,” Shashi says. “I also worked at the Migrant Centre on a new project, helping to empower new migrants gain employment”.

“At the end of the day, I just love the feeling of having done something good and accomplishing something.” Volunteering has also helped Shashi make friends and meet people in her new home. “Earlier I didn’t know anyone here, and now they all know me so that’s really good,” she says.

Read more of Shashi’s story.

Peter Boyd, Ngati Porou Surf Lifesaving Club

After years as a volunteer lifeguard in Gisborne, Peter Boyd realised his own East Coast community needed lifeguard services to keep safe in the water — so he founded the Ngati Porou Surf Lifesaving Club.

The club’s members patrol the remote Onepoto Beach during summer, and train year-round in water safety, rescue techniques, first aid, leadership and teamwork, as well as running a Nippers programme for children.

The club provides opportunities for young people to gain leadership experience and valuable skills. The have also formed a partnership with the local kura kaupapa, whose teachers are becoming lifeguards and teach lifeguard skills through the club as part of the school curriculum.

“It’s taken a little while for the idea of lifeguarding to catch on in our iwi – because the idea is seen as a mainstream Pakeha thing,” Peter says.

“But I say it is us. Because of our ocean culture. We’re not just people of the land, we’re people of the sea, and respect for the sea and lifeguarding and safety are who we are.”

Read more about the journey of Peter and Ngati Porou surf club.

Kirsty Saxon, Multiples NZ

When Kirsty Saxon and her husband found out they were expecting twins, they joined Multiples NZ for support. Being part of this “huge village of multiple mums and dads” was the start of Kirsty’s volunteer journey.

“At every stage of my children’s development, there was a parent who was facing the same problems or milestones, or had been there!” she says. “In the early days, we were members of the Nelson/Marlborough satellite club of Multiples Canterbury. It was there I started volunteering.”

Five years on, Kirsty is more involved than ever, acting as editor for Multiple NZ’s magazine, a member of the National Executive and a contact for local families — alongside looking after her twins, Xavier and Lillian.

“It is genuinely a lot of volunteer work, but somehow everything always falls into place,” she says. “It really is weaving people together. We have families who genuinely want to help parents of new and older multiples. Through sharing stories, advice and support, we are helping to make raising our families easier.”

“He waka eke noa – we are all in this together.

Read more of Kirsty’s story.

Jo, Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison

I started volunteering at Hawke’s Bay prison as my teaching career drew to a close. I knew I didn’t want to work full-time anymore, but I also knew I’d miss teaching, and specifically teaching writing.

I hadn’t realised how much I’d enjoy working with the men at the prison – and in fact, the more I’ve done, the more I’ve loved it. Mainly, I work with groups of 5-10 men, writing creatively. My goal with each group is to get their voices on the page.

I don’t want to give the impression I’m in any way selfless in running these classes. I get at least as much from it as the men do. That moment when a story or poem that didn’t exist is now in the world – there’s no better feeling. And, as every teacher knows, it’s such a blast when someone ‘gets it’: when they realise they’ve put something on a page that captures their thoughts, or their heart, or their story.

Read more about Jo’s story


National Volunteer Week, and VNZ’s Volunteer Stories Map both celebrate the contribution of volunteers in their communities throughout Aotearoa. Now more than ever, as a volunteering community we commit to manaakitanga and whakawhanaungatanga. We commit to caring, and to building meaningful, enduring and inclusive relationships across our differences, and to make space for diverse voices.


This blog has been contributed by a member of the ComVoices network. The views presented here are not necessarily those of ComVoices.

ComVoices is a Wellington based network of national community and voluntary sector organisations. It was established so that sector organisations would have a more powerful voice at Government level and in the community.

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