Community Scoop

What’s your superpower?

nicola_2018-200x300Nicola Sutton

Chief Executive | English Language Partners New Zealand

The saying, “I volunteer. What is your superpower?” seems apt as the world celebrates International Volunteer Day tomorrow (5 December).

At the heart of volunteering is our human need to care for people, animals or the environment. Volunteering makes us feel good. Whatever the motivation to volunteer the results are evident in stronger communities, increased access to relationships, the development of new skills, and greater personal wellbeing.

1,700 volunteer home tutors contribute to the work of English Language Partners. These people commit to training for the role and then preparing weekly English lessons which they teach to former refugees and migrants in their homes. While English is the primary purpose it is common for tutors and learners to gain much more from the relationship. For the newcomer it creates a safe, and often first, link in the community and for the volunteer it is the opportunity to share and learn.

Mary Maxwell is one such volunteer. Mary, a kiwi, had spent 30 years in the UK and when she returned to New Zealand she said, “I felt disconnected, like a stranger in my own land. I saw an ad for English Language Partners’ volunteer training course and thought ‘I can do that’.”

Mary has not looked back. She got involved in other volunteering work in Morrinsville and uses her community knowledge and connections to encourage newcomers to volunteer and join in with community activities. A colleague said, “If a young mother comes to class, Mary invites her to join a local music and movement group for babies and toddlers. That way the new mum gets to practise more English and make Kiwi friends too.”

Mary reckons she gets more from volunteering that she gives. “Our learners have so much; they have two cultures. As teachers, we give from one dimension as deeply as we can, but equally, we are learning too.”

Myriad volunteer stories exist that follow a similar pattern; the motivation to volunteer leading to taking up a volunteering opportunity and then positive stories about the impact on the recipient, the wider community, and the volunteer themselves.

Take time this week to ask your friends and colleagues if they volunteer. You will be surprised at the number who do and at the range of roles. I also bet they will tell you stories about the impact of that work on themselves or their communities.

You can read Mary Maxwell’s full story at


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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