Community Scoop

Volunteer story map – giving volunteers a voice


Michelle Kitney

Interim Chief Executive | Volunteering New Zealand

Volunteering New Zealand recently launched an interactive map of volunteer stories from across Aotearoa. It celebrates the contribution of volunteers within their unique communities, from the top to the bottom of Aotearoa. 

These stories aim to inspire and reflect the diversity of volunteering, Mahi Aroha and social action and the power these have to weaving communities together.  People share their experiences in their own words.

Today we are sharing snippets from three great stories.

Saving lives and sharing skills using traditional kaupapa

Peter Boyd, Ngati Porou Surf Life Saving 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. They 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.”

The creative spark

Jo, Hawkes 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.

Campaigning for a fair and flourishing Aotearoa

Ta’ase Vaoga, ActionStation

For Ta’ase Vaonga, 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.”

There are heaps more on the Volunteer Stories Map on the Volunteering New Zealand website.


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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